A new grant from the Department of Energy will allow UF researchers to predict the properties of warm dense matter, a state of matter found in the cores of gas giant planets and in the begininning stages of nuclear fusion

Above: A new grant from the Department of Energy will allow UF researchers to predict the properties of warm dense matter, a state of matter found in the cores of gas giant planets and in the begininning stages of nuclear fusion.

Photos
Faculty who won the new Department of Energy award discuss details of how to predict properties of warm dense matter with computer simulations. Left to right: Jim Dufty, Frank Harris, Sam Trickey, and Keith Runge. Photo courtesy Quantum Theory Project.
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Department of Energy Awards $1.275 Million Grant to University of Florida Physicists

University of Florida researchers in Physics and the Quantum Theory Project have received a new $1.275 million research grant from the Department of Energy to predict the properties of “warm dense matter” by theory, modeling, and computer simulation.  

Over the next three years, the researchers will use the award to develop new concepts and efficient computational methods to address the exceptional complexities of warm dense matter, a state of matter between solid and plasma that typically occurs at temperatures between roughly 20,000 to 275,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

Warm dense matter can exist in the cores of gas giant planets such as Jupiter, Saturn, and the newly discovered extra-solar planets.  It also appears in the initial stages of controlled nuclear fusion.  Better understanding of its processes could lead to fusion as a clean energy source.  

The study of warm dense matter poses a challenge because of its inherent complexity.  Physicists define it as a ‘messy’ system because such systems are a mixture of atoms, ions,  free electrons as well, in addition to liquid-like and crystal-like regions.  This ever-changing landscape makes current methods of observation and prediction used for solids and plasmas difficult to adapt.

The project is one of only four grants given to over 300 applicants for the Theory, Modeling, and Simulation Initiative, offered by the Department of Energy’s Division of Materials Sciences and Engineering.

The University of Florida research team is made up of Sam Trickey, Jim Dufty, Frank Harris, and Keith Runge. Most of the funding will go to hiring post-doctoral associates who will join the team.  They will be working on orbital-free Density Functional Theory, a scheme that makes the complicated quantum mechanics of warm dense matter resemble the equations of ordinary liquids. The group will develop new approximations, program them, and test them on simple examples of warm dense matter.  Their computer codes will be made available as open-source software to the scientific community. 

Credits

Source

Samuel Trickey, Quantum Theory Project, trickey@qtp.ufl.edu

Writer

Jeff Stevens, CLAS Communications and Outreach, jstevens@ufl.edu

Photos

Courtesy NASA

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