Supercomputer to test nanoparticles before we make them

Playing with virtual gold nanoparticles. Credit: Amanda Barnard, CSIRO
Playing with virtual gold nanoparticles. Credit: Amanda Barnard, CSIRO

Every new technology brings opportunities and threats. Nanotechnology is no exception. It has the potential to create new materials that will dramatically improve drug delivery, medical diagnostics, clean and efficient energy, computing and more. But nanoparticles could also have significant health and environmental impacts.

CSIRO physicist Dr Amanda Barnard is making the particles in the virtual world and testing how they interact in various environments before they get made in the real world.

Amanda has been looking at titania nanoparticles which are used in photovoltaics in solar cells, sunscreens, and on self-cleaning surfaces. She has created predictive ‘maps’ of how the particles will behave at various sizes or shapes, and in various thermal and chemical environments. She will be able to predict what happens when these nanoparticles wash away into our rivers and oceans.

Amanda’s work requires serious computing power so she is a significant user of Australia’s National Computational Infrastructure at The Australian National University. With nearly 12,000 high performance processors and 36 terabytes of memory this supercomputer speeds through her simulations.

In October 2009 Amanda received the Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year—one of the Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science.

Further information: Amanda Barnard,