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The Erwin Schroedinger Institute for Mathematical Physics

Peter Wirnsberger (U of Cambridge), JRF Project: Thermally Induced Monopoles

Research Project:

A simulation study to explore temperature induced effective charges in polar solvents

My research focuses on the complex interactions in nanoscale systems out of thermal equilibrium. Thermal gradients are ubiquitous in nature, yet relatively little is known about the forces they induce on the nanoscale. Using molecular simulations, we recently demonstrated that a pair of heated/cooled colloidal particles in a dipolar solvent behaves like oppositely charged electric or magnetic monopoles. In particular, we showed that the electric field distribution induced in the solvent is in excellent agreement with the field generated by two homogeneously charged spheres in vacuum. This intriguing result is an important step forward towards understanding the electrostatic forces acting on these ‘thermal monopoles’. During my time at the ESI, I will extend our previous work and carry out additional simulation studies to make accurate predictions for realistic systems, such as water.

An animation of the effect and links to my recent publications are available under

At a glance

Type: JRF course
When: May 08, 2017 to
Jun 16, 2017
Where: ESI
Organizers: Christoph Dellago (ESI, U Vienna)
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