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Centre for Materials Physics

 Centre for Materials Physics

Materials Physics is one of the largest, most diverse and dynamic fields in modern physics, encompassing all aspects of the solid and liquids states of matter. This breadth is reflected in the research undertaken at Durham which spans a wide range of subjects from light emitting polymers and solar cell materials to nanoscale magnetics.

Kinetic Transition Networks for the Thomson Problem and Smale’s Seventh Problem

Steve Smale, a renowned Fields medalist, listed 18 problems in mathematics and computer science for the 21st century. The 7th problem in Smale's list is how to choose configurations as close as possible to the lowest energy state for particles with equal charges that are confined to the surface of a sphere. In chemical physics this model is also known as the Thomson problem. Although easily stated, finding the global minimum becomes progressively harder as the number of particles increases. The solutions also provide useful insight into a wide range of phenomena where systems are confined to spherical geometry, from determining the arrangements of virus capsids to the optimal placement of satellites around the Earth.

In this paper, a collaboration between Durham's Halim Kusumaatmaja and scientists from the Universities of Cambridge and Notre Dame located thousands of metastable configurations for up to 150 particles and studied how these configurations can interconvert, building networks of connected minima. Surprisingly, it was found that these networks exhibit 'small-world' properties, meaning the most stable configuration is on average only a few hops away from any other local minimum. It is this insight that could be useful for solving Smale's 7th Problem in mathematics.

The paper has been selected as an “Editor's Suggestion” by Physical Review Letters and has been reported on Notre Dame have also produced a press release

(18 Jul 2016)

Centre for Materials Physics

The Centre for Materials Physics encompasses several research groups, covering a wide range of theoretical and experimental physics. These are divided into three main research themes:

Durham has a long tradition of welcoming excellent students from all over the world. If you are thinking of applying to Durham University, of course you should look through these web pages at the research and training (and in particular our Ph.D Booklet and Ph.D handbook), but also try to speak with some of our alumni, they are our greatest ambassadors.

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