Team, Visitors, External Collaborators
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Application Domains
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Section: Application Domains

Domain 1 – Computational Physics

The development of large-scale computing facilities has enabled simulations of systems at the atomistic scale on a daily basis. The aim of these simulations is to bridge the time and space scales between the macroscopic properties of matter and the stochastic atomistic description. Typically, such simulations are based on the ordinary differential equations of classical mechanics supplemented with a random perturbation modeling temperature, or collisions between particles.

Let us give a few examples. In bio-chemistry, such simulations are key to predict the influence of a ligand on the behavior of a protein, with applications to drug design. The computer can thus be used as a numerical microscope in order to access data that would be very difficult and costly to obtain experimentally. In that case, a rare event (Objective 1) is given by a macroscopic system change such as a conformation change of the protein. In nuclear safety, such simulations are key to predict the transport of neutrons in nuclear plants, with application to assessing aging of concrete. In that case, a rare event is given by a high energy neutron impacting concrete containment structures.

A typical model used in molecular dynamics simulation of open systems at given temperature is a stochastic differential equation of Langevin type. The large time behavior of such systems is typically characterized by a hopping dynamics between 'metastable' configurations, usually defined by local minima of a potential energy. In order to bridge the time and space scales between the atomistic level and the macroscopic level, specific algorithms enforcing the realization of rare events have been developed. For instance, splitting particle methods (Objective 1) have become popular within the computational physics community only within the last few years, partially as a consequence of interactions between physicists and Inria mathematicians in ASPI (parent of SIMSMART) and MATHERIALS project-teams.