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Magnetic molecules

Juan Peralta, Ph.D., a professor in the Physics Department, is developing computer software that simulates the quantum behavior of special molecules with undergraduate student, Alex Koke. This project is funded by a grant from the Department of Energy during the summer.

Picture of three of Juan Peralta's Physics studentsPeralta and Koke’s research focuses on “building and improving computational capability to predict the properties of molecular complexes.” These complexes are also referred to as molecular magnets and are the smallest known materials to have magnetic properties. Because of this, there are many potential technological applications and understanding the properties of these molecules is integral in the development of future technology.

Koke is working on building a computational scheme, using existing software and developing his own, to find the quantum energy levels of these molecular magnets. This is among one of the problems when researching molecular complexes because they are so small. “One of the remarkable characteristics of this problem is that its dimension scales exponentially with the number of magnetic atoms. For example, for a simple complex containing 28 Iron atoms, the number of solutions is the same as the number of stars in the universe!”, says Peralta.

Koke is testing methods that can find the most important solutions, which is like finding a needle in a haystack, but using physics, mathematics, and computer software. Pictured above left to right:  Alex Koke, Duyen Nguyen, and Lucas Abersold.

This story is brought to you by the Office of Research & Graduate Studies