Researchers from one of NCI’s newest Affiliate Partners, the ARC Centre of Excellence in Future Low-Energy Electronics Technologies (FLEET), are using the NCI supercomputer to discover the building blocks of our future electronic devices. In effect, they are using a high-energy electronic device — the country’s most powerful supercomputer — to help invent the low-energy equivalents of the future.

The electronic devices that FLEET is working on include new kinds of computer transistors that make use of different kinds of physics. They are also working on biosensors, new light-based devices, and they are even developing new fabrication techniques to bring the creation of these tiny, delicate components closer to reality.

Because so much of this work is happening at the nanoscale, producing the materials and measuring their behaviour is incredibly complex. For that reason, FLEET researchers use complex atomistic and molecular modelling on the NCI supercomputer to help them understand the materials they are working with.

With modelling results in hand, researchers can then use them to guide experiments and inform their understanding of the results. In many cases, using a supercomputer is an essential first step within the research process.

Dr Yuefeng Yin works in the Computational Materials group led by A/Prof Nikhil Medhekar at FLEET focused on understanding ‘Atomically Thin Materials’. These materials, such as graphene, form large sheets only a few atoms thick, and can be used for many different purposes. In this case, Dr Yin and his colleagues have been looking at how graphene can be used to detect DNA or RNA based on their electronic interactions.

Dr Yin and A/Prof. Medhekar say, “These calculations are all about us using physical principles to create new materials. We use our theoretical understanding to see what is possible, through the computer modelling. As such, we are very dependent on the NCI supercomputer to progress our research.”

The fields of advanced manufacturing and materials design are being driven forward by innovative Australian researchers from initial conception through to product delivery. NCI’s supercomputer systems and expertise continue to play a large role in supporting this exciting research.

This research highlight was originally published in the 2017-2018 NCI Annual Report.