Challenges in modelling dynamic processes in realistic nanostructured materials at operating conditions

V. Van Speybroeck
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A


The question is addressed in how far current modelling strategies are capable of modelling dynamic phenomena in realistic nanostructured materials at operating conditions. Nanostructured materials used in applications are far from perfect; they possess a broad range of heterogeneities in space and time extending over several orders of magnitude. Spatial heterogeneities from the subnanometre to the micrometre scale in crystal particles with a finite size and specific morphology, impact the material's dynamics. Furthermore, the material's functional behaviour is largely determined by the operating conditions. Currently, there exists a huge length–time scale gap between attainable theoretical length–time scales and experimentally relevant scales. Within this perspective, three key challenges are highlighted within the molecular modelling chain to bridge this length–time scale gap. Methods are needed that enable (i) building structural models for realistic crystal particles having mesoscale dimensions with isolated defects, correlated nanoregions, mesoporosity, internal and external surfaces; (ii) the evaluation of interatomic forces with quantum mechanical accuracy albeit at much lower computational cost than the currently used density functional theory methods and (iii) derivation of the kinetics of phenomena taking place in a multi-length–time scale window to obtain an overall view of the dynamics of the process.

This article is part of a discussion meeting issue ‘Supercomputing simulations of advanced materials’.