Advancing knowledge through computation

Technology arguably changed the world for the better. Its development has paved for possibilities that were not even imaginable just a few decades ago.

Movies that used to be exclusive in cinemas can now be viewed from mobile phones anytime and anywhere. Furthermore, encyclopedias, dictionaries, even mails and photographs, are already stored in portable digital mediums.

When it comes to power, electricity that used to be provided by carbon-emitting generator sets can now be generated by a 0.5 x 0.5-m photovoltaic system with just sunlight serving as fuel. Today, even classes that were delivered in traditional classrooms have transitioned online due to the pandemic and are now conducted in the safety of our homes.

But what do all these technological advancements have in common?

At the heart of these modern conveniences are devices made of materials that have superb specialized properties. They are called functional materials.

In line with this, physicists in the University of San Carlos are conducting theory, modeling, and simulation of these materials. Modeling and simulation of physical systems are ways of doing science, which collectively is called computation.

Dubbed as the “third pillar of science,” computation is now considered a major activity in scientific studies along with the other two pillars, namely theoretical and experimental investigations.

Building a unit cell from scratch, a researcher imposes lattice parameters necessary for constructing an extended three-dimensional structure of the compound.

The emergence of computation as a new pillar of science is brought about by the enormous growth of computing power, especially the introduction of general-purpose graphics processing units (GP-GPU), improvement in numerical techniques, development of efficient algorithms, and advances in software engineering.

Leveraging the high-performance computers (HPCs) acquired through a grant from the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), researchers from the USC Department of Physics are computationally investigating a class of materials called perovskites to improve the efficiency of solar cells and develop temperature sensors and solid-state cooling devices.

The team is also investigating how to design photovoltaic systems using photosynthesis, an initial work on an emerging field called quantum biology. They are also working on another emerging field of spintronics, where the workhorse of device operation is the electron.

In traditional devices, the property of the electron that is used is the charge. However, as devices approach atomic dimensions in the current trend of miniaturization, tunneling effect and heat control will be a big problem. One of the solutions being explored is the utilization of the other property of the electron, its spin, hence the term spin electronics or spintronics.

Another researcher models the electronic properties of a novel functional material.

This promising computational work is enabled by the Laboratory of Computational Functional Materials, Nanoscience, and Nanotechnology (LCFMNN), the computational arm of the Theoretical and Computational Sciences and Engineering (TCSE) Group of the USC Department of Physics with the mission, “Advancing the boundary of knowledge: Pushing the limits of technology through computational experiments.”

This computational team is led by Roland Emerito S. Otadoy, Ph.D. (center in the photograph above) and includes Fr. Jesuraj Anthoniappen, SVD, Ph.D. (USC’s Vice President for Academic Affairs), and Balik Scientists Felixberto F. Buot, Ph.D. and Ryan Arevalo, Ph.D. After his stint at USC, Dr. Arevalo was awarded the prestigious Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions COFUND Fellowship at the University of Limerick (Ireland).

by Syrine Gladys Podadera

This entry was posted in Research and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.