Researchers are using XSEDE compute resources to study how lasers can be used to make useful materials. In this NICS podcast, Dr. Zhigilei discusses the practical applications of zapping surfaces with short laser pulses. Laser ablation, which refers to the ejection of materials from the irradiated target, generates chemical-free nanoparticles that can be used in medical applications, for example.
“One method of nanotechnology research involves the use of short laser pulses at minuscule fractions of a second to produce structural changes in thin, localized surface regions of various materials, such as gold, silver, or silicon. Leonid Zhigilei of the University of Virginia says that what attracted him to this type of research is the ability of lasers to excite and change materials in ways not possible with any other technique.”
Because laser-induced processes are complex and happen so fast, experimentation cannot provide a detailed understanding of the structural transformations triggered by the rapid laser energy deposition, Zhigilei says.
“Our atomistic simulations, on the other hand, provide clear visual representations, or ‘atomic movies,’ and are well-suited to reveal the relationships between the properties of laser-treated regions of the targets and the underlying microscopic mechanisms of laser-induced target modification,” adds Chengping Wu, a member of Zhigilei’s computational materials research group.
The group uses molecular dynamics, a computer simulation technique for studying the movements of atoms or molecules in a system.
Unlike in real experiments,” Zhigilei explains, “the analysis of non-equilibrium processes in molecular dynamics can be performed with unlimited atomic-level resolution, providing complete information of the phenomena of interest.”
During 2015, Zhigilei’s group published two papers in the journal Physical Review with different collaborators.