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Exploring the physics of two-dimensional materials

Triangles made up of individual little hexagons hover over a black background, with a green stripe emanating from one of the triangles.

Artist’s impression of quantum emission from 2D hexagonal boron-nitride, from the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

Researchers from the University of Technology Sydney are investigating the properties of a wide variety of 2-dimensional materials. These materials, made of one atom thick sheets, have radically different properties to their more common bulk counterparts.

Professor Mike Ford is trying to understand the electronic properties of some of these materials using computer simulations on NCI’s supercomputer. He says “these are very large compute intensive calculations that would not be possible without access to the NCI high performance computing facilities.”

Producing and researching 2-dimensional materials experimentally is very difficult, so Professor Ford uses NCI to simulate the materials first, allowing him to find the most useful ones for further study. “You want to do the calculations to identify where the interesting materials are. And then you can try and make them.” he says.

“Because they’re so thin, they’re a good building block for new devices, such as all-optical chips,” says Professor Ford. The potential for the use of 2-dimensional materials in industry and manufacturing is huge, but most researchers are still exploring the fundamental characteristics that all of the many different materials display. Professor Ford and co-workers are currently interested in the physics underlying quantum emission from defects in 2D materials and their application in optical devices.

In the coming years, as UTS increases its share of NCI compute time, Professor Ford is looking to start simulating “hybrid materials, they have really interesting properties.” Hybrid materials, where sheets of different 2-dimensional materials are layered on top of one another, can have a wide range of properties with many uses. The challenge lies in calculating how the different sheets interact with each other to produce the final desired material properties.


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