How to program materials | 2/22/2019 | Staff
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Ali Gooneie simulates on his computer what holds the world together right at its very core: atoms, molecules, molecular chains and bundles—then lumps and fibers, which emerge from these. With his calculations, the Empa researcher can also explain properties we can feel with our fingertips: smooth and rough surfaces, flexible and rigid materials, heat-conductive substances and insulators.

Many of these properties have their origin deep inside the materials. Metal or wood, plastic or ceramics, stone or gel—all of these have been examined many times before. However, what about composite materials? How do the properties of such materials come about and how can they be altered in a desired way? A tedious trial-and-error approach in the lab is no longer sufficient in today's fast-paced research environment. Nowadays, you need computer-assisted predictions to be able to decide quickly which experimental path to take.

Gooneie - Computer - Simulation - Experts - Research

Gooneie is one of many computer simulation experts who work in various research labs at Empa. He studied polymer technology at Amirkabir University of Technology in Tehran and did his doctorate at the University of Leoben in Austria. "Although after my engineering degree I immersed myself ever deeper in the world of physics formulae, I never lost touch with the real world," he says. "For me, simulations are not an end in themselves. I use them to explain the effects we observe in materials."

What does a hair feel like? And above all, why?

Order - Gooneie - Polymer - Material - Hair

In order to understand what exactly Gooneie is calculating, it is worth considering a biological polymer composite fiber material we all know very well: hair. Freshly washed, it feels soft and flexible. When it is dry, it crackles like electricity; and when wet, it squeaks like rubber. We can cut it, pull it out, singe it, perm it, bleach it and blow-dry it. But where do all these properties...
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