Predicting the Properties of Ordinary Matter Under Extreme Conditions

When: Monday, February 13, 2012 at 4:00 pm
Where: DA 114
Speaker: Jeffrey M. McMahon
Organization: Institute for Condensed Matter Theory, Department of Physics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Sponsor: Physics Colloquium

Recently proposed structure-prediction methods are revolutionizing our understanding of solid-state systems and becoming powerful tools in the design of novel materials. Such methods are playing a particularly important role in predicting the properties of ordinary matter under extreme pressures (and temperatures), conditions at which a significant fraction of matter exists at, for example in planetary interiors. This is because creating such conditions experimentally is extremely challenging, and thus theory and computational modeling plays the primary role in our understanding. In this talk, I will present results from the application of structure-prediction methods to two of the most abundant systems in the universe, water-ice and hydrogen. I will first discuss the ground-state structures that these systems adopt, and then go on to discuss some of the remarkable properties that they exhibit, including an insulator-to-metal transition in water-ice and high-temperature superconductivity as well as the possibility of a low- or zero-temperature quantum fluid in hydrogen.