By Cheryl Stewart
A conference hosted by the Division of Materials Science & Engineering on September 27-29 brought 60 of the world’s leading materials scientists to campus to discuss the future of the rapidly emerging field of digital design of materials.
“Digital Design of Materials: The Way Forward for Materials Science?” included presentations and discussions on solid state chemistry in materials design and discovery, the search for materials such as superconductors, recent theoretical work underlying digital materials design, specific materials design techniques, and novel materials and their potential impact. Presentations focused on how advanced materials can be designed in silico, or via computer simulation.
Prof. David Campbell (Physics), the former ENG dean and chair of the conference organizing committee, said, “We were delighted that all the speakers took very seriously the need to reach out across the different disciplines, presenting the key ideas in their fields in ways that led to robust discussions and interactions. We are very hopeful that this meeting will help nucleate an on-going dialogue on the prospects of designing materials in silico.”
Researchers are moving beyond the explanation of complex materials’ properties and toward the prediction of how new materials will behave, a much harder task. Key to that will be harnessing the power of advanced computational capabilities to develop novel devices and technologies in silico. While computers have not yet reached the level required for this work, conference participants discussed the extent to which new materials’ properties can be predicted using existing advanced computational tools combined with researchers’ experience.
Conference sponsors included Boston University, Division of Materials Science & Engineering, the Institute for Complex Adaptive Matter and the National Science Foundation.