Computational Physics at ICTP

Workshop explored computation methods to further physics research
Computational Physics at ICTP

Nearly 300 scientists, representing fields as diverse as nanoscience, biochemistry and geophysics, convened at ICTP in Trieste to attend the 15th International Workshop on Computational Physics and Materials Science: Total Energy and Force Methods.

The workshop, which ran from 13 to 15 January 2011, was devoted to recent advances in computational condensed matter physics and materials science, based on realistic calculations of the electronic structure of complex systems.

Computation now represents an essential component of modern research in numerous fields of physics. And as the strength of computers grows, so does the field of computational physics. Says Ralph Gebauer, the Workshop's local organizer, "A few years ago we could only do test calculations and proof concepts of our methods. Now we can compute some very meaningful material predictions. Theory has moved much closer to experiment. In addition, the powerful computers have helped us improve the quality of our algorithms."

Workshop presentations covered a number of theories and methods, such as Density-Functional Theory, Ab-initio Molecular Dynamics, and electronic transport. Reflecting ICTP's mission to improve science in developing countries, the Workshop attracted a large number of scientists from developing regions of the world. Gebauer says that from a cost viewpoint, computational physics can be done nearly anywhere. "Computational physics is inexpensive, you only need a computer. In Africa, the field has benefitted from computer donations and a huge supercomputer centre in South Africa that is easily accessible throughout the continent," he says.

The Workshop was co-sponsored by the International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA), Democritos, Psi-K, Centre Européen de Calcul Atomique et Moléculaire (CECAM), the Asia Pacific Center for Theoretical Physics (APCTP), and the Nanoscience Foundries and Fine Analysis (NFFA) project. For more details about the Workshop, visit its website.