Science News

Curated by RSF Research Staff

Digital Alchemy

How do complex collective phenomena emerge from simple building blocks? From flocks of birds to complex quasicrystal structures – these systems seem to follow some kind of blue print.

A team of scientists headed by Sharon Glotzer are doing what they call ‘digital alchemy’ to uncover these fundamental building blocks and the driving force behind the emergent properties. Using computer simulations, they were able to show how entropy drives tetrahedral entities to spontaneously assemble into a quasicrystal.

The team have and continue to study thousands of shapes and their resulting emergent properties, which they can use to back engineer specific materials – hence the name digital alchemy.

This new approach has huge implications for studying the collective behaviors of systems across all scales from the quantum to the cosmological.


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