Computational physics (CP) is an approach to physics that uses computers to solve problems where a precise theory exists but the resulting equations are intractable to traditional analytical approaches. This area is relatively new in physics, but continues to grow in relevance especially as computational power and algorithms evolve. Computational approaches are applied to a wide range of areas, including condensed matter, surface physics, materials physics, soft-condensed matter, and biological physics.
Several groups in the UCF physics department make heavy use of computational approaches to address a wide array of physical problems. Most of the work in the department focuses on atomic-scale simulation, where the models include detail down to the level of atoms and electrons. For example, the Kara, Rahman, and Stolbov groups use density-functional theory (DFT) approaches to study chemical reactions and other kinetic processes at surfaces relevant to heterogeneous catalysis and thin-film growth. The focus of the Bhattacharya group is on soft condensed matter including DNA translocation through nanopores, self-assembly of amphiphilic peptides, and metal deposition on polymeric surfaces. The Schelling group uses DFT and classical molecular dynamics simulation mainly for investigation of heat, mass, and phonon transport phenomena at the nanoscale. Another important focus area shared by all the computational groups is to greatly extend the length and time scales accessible to simulation predictions to make more direct contact with experiment. For example, Kara and Rahman have made important strides in the development of kinetic Monte-Carlo methods for the study of thin-film growth. In another effort, Schelling is developing multiscale models that incorporate electron transport within a classical molecular- dynamics simulation to elucidate far-from-equilibrium phenomena relevant for laser materials processing.
The computational groups use local computer clusters and also shared user facilities including the NSF teragrid and other resources.