Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Three linked grids reveal unsuspected property of clay

A UK e-Science project has shed light on the secret life of clay. At a certain size, microscopic sheets of clay start to undulate, something that has never been observed in this material before.

The finding emerged from some of the largest computer simulations ever attempted which required the pooled resources of supercomputers on three grids across two continents. The research is expected to provide insights into the properties of an important class of new materials, clay polymer nanocomposites, which are under investigation for many applications, for example as materials for use in car bodies.

Supercomputers on the UK National Grid Service, the US TeraGrid and DEISA (EU Distributed European Infrastructure for Supercomputing Applications), linked by dedicated high speed optical networks including UKLight, were pressed into service. Professor Peter Coveney and colleagues from University College London (UCL) used these resources to produce simulations of five computer models of the platelets that lock together to form clay sheets, the difference between each model being its size and complexity. Each model simulated accurately the motion and interactions between all the atoms in two sheets of clay separated by a layer of water and sodium ions. In the largest model, the motions of nearly 10 million atoms were taken into account. The simulations were run over timescales of up to 2 nanoseconds (a nanosecond is a billionth of a second).

By using distributed high performance computers linked by grids, it was possible to perform the many and vast simulations concurrently. Without such a facility, the time taken to perform the simulations on one supercomputer alone would have been too long to make the study practicable. The team was able to access these resources across multiple domains using grid middleware, called the Application Hosting Environment, which was originally developed under RealityGrid, an EPSRC funded e-Science project.

Data from the simulations were returned to computers back at UCL for visualisation. “Optical networks enabled us to link these grids together. The amount of data we produced is very large and UKLight is very valuable for getting the data back to us here,” says Professor Coveney.

The visualisations revealed the undulations. “As we moved from smaller to larger models we began to see collective undulations – the clay platelet sheets fluctuate up and down,” says Professor Coveney. This property, which was not known before in clay materials, is on too small a scale to be easily verified by experiment. But it has implications for the properties of clay on an ordinary scale which can be computed and then compared with experiment. For example, the team has used the response of the clay sheets to the undulations to calculate their elasticity (or Young’s modulus).

As a next step, the group plans to simulate clay platelets embedded in a polymer matrix. Such clay-polymer nanocomposites are under investigation for a number of applications ranging from car bodies and other automotive uses, through oilfield technology to drinks packaging. Compared with polymers alone, they have far greater mechanical strength, improved fire retardant properties and they make better barriers to the diffusion of gas. “These simulations will give us a better understanding of the properties of these new and important materials,” says Professor Coveney.

The work is published in the Journal of Physical Chemistry vol.111 pp8248-8259 2007.

Julia Short | alfa
Further information:

More articles from Information Technology:

nachricht Next Generation Cryptography
20.03.2018 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Sichere Informationstechnologie SIT

nachricht TIB’s Visual Analytics Research Group to develop methods for person detection and visualisation
19.03.2018 | Technische Informationsbibliothek (TIB)

All articles from Information Technology >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Space observation with radar to secure Germany's space infrastructure

Satellites in near-Earth orbit are at risk due to the steady increase in space debris. But their mission in the areas of telecommunications, navigation or weather forecasts is essential for society. Fraunhofer FHR therefore develops radar-based systems which allow the detection, tracking and cataloging of even the smallest particles of debris. Satellite operators who have access to our data are in a better position to plan evasive maneuvers and prevent destructive collisions. From April, 25-29 2018, Fraunhofer FHR and its partners will exhibit the complementary radar systems TIRA and GESTRA as well as the latest radar techniques for space observation across three stands at the ILA Berlin.

The "traffic situation" in space is very tense: the Earth is currently being orbited not only by countless satellites but also by a large volume of space...

Im Focus: Researchers Discover New Anti-Cancer Protein

An international team of researchers has discovered a new anti-cancer protein. The protein, called LHPP, prevents the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells in the liver. The researchers led by Prof. Michael N. Hall from the Biozentrum, University of Basel, report in “Nature” that LHPP can also serve as a biomarker for the diagnosis and prognosis of liver cancer.

The incidence of liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma, is steadily increasing. In the last twenty years, the number of cases has almost doubled...

Im Focus: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

New solar solutions for sustainable buildings and cities

23.03.2018 | Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

For graphite pellets, just add elbow grease

23.03.2018 | Materials Sciences

Unique communication strategy discovered in stem cell pathway controlling plant growth

23.03.2018 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

Sharpening the X-ray view of the nanocosm

23.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>