Professor Nigel Wilding, University of Bath
Although the materials around us appear - for the most part - inanimate, at the microscopic level the constituent molecules are engaged in perpetual random jostling. This randomness, which finds formal expression in the concept of entropy, lies at the heart of material properties, and is key to understanding, for example, why a substance changes state from solid to liquid to gas as it is heated. A central goal of condensed matter physicists is to predict the detailed properties of specific materials using simplified models. This talk will explain how computer simulation plays an essential role in this endeavour, specifically focussing on one powerful tool: Monte Carlo simulation; so called because of its use of pseudo random numbers to model thermal randomness. This talk will show how Monte Carlo simulation can deepen our understanding of the properties of complex materials such as magnets, liquid crystals, and polymers, and how it is helping us to discover design rules for particles and molecules that self-assemble into new materials with novel 'functional' properties.