Complex systems far from equilibrium

Investigating nonequilibrium phenomena in complex systems and creating new computational models for them is the goal of the new research unit “Reducing complexity of nonequilibrium systems” with Prof. Dr. Gerhard Stock from the Institute of Physics at the University of Freiburg as spokesperson. The German Research Foundation (DFG) is funding the group with a total of 3,2 million euros over the next four years.

Nonequilibrium processes are omnipresent in basic research and technological applications. Most biological and mechanical processes take place far from equilibrium. Nevertheless, most theoretical approaches and simulations of complex systems are based on thermal equilibrium. This assumption is also a cornerstone of most approaches to reduce the complexity of a system. However, this can lead to a qualitatively incorrect description of dynamic processes in complex systems.

The research unit wants to develop a systematic approach to describe processes in complex systems from different disciplines such as physics, chemistry, biophysics and engineering far from equilibrium. To this end, the Freiburg researchers will apply a broad spectrum of methods ranging from completely quantum mechanical descriptions to classical simulations. For example, they want to study nonequilibrium phenomena in different systems such as in transport processes within nanostructures and biomolecules, as well as different forms of friction on surfaces and also within lubricants.

“The overarching goal of the research group,” explains Stock, “is to develop efficient and accurate theories, models and computational methods that employ a reduced description to treat nonequilibrium processes in complex systems.”

In addition to Gerhard Stock, the research group includes Prof. Dr. Heinz-Peter Breuer, Prof. Dr. Joachim Dzubiella, Prof. Dr. Michael Moseler, Prof. Dr. Tanja Schilling, Prof. Dr. Michael Thoss and Dr. Steffen Wolf from the Institute of Physics, Prof. Dr. Thorsten Koslowski from the Institute of Chemistry and Prof. Dr. Lars Pastewka from the Institute of Microsystems Engineering at the University of Freiburg, and Dr. Kerstin Falk from the Fraunhofer Institute for Mechanics of Materials IWM in Freiburg.

DFG press release (in German)

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