Emergence in Non-Relativistic Quantum Mechanics

Authored by: Stewart Clark , Iorwerth Thomas

The Routledge Handbook of Emergence

Print publication date:  March  2019
Online publication date:  March  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138925083
eBook ISBN: 9781315675213
Adobe ISBN:

10.4324/9781315675213-22

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Abstract

Materials are a collection of atoms, which consist of atomic nuclei surrounded by electrons, and these interact with each other electrostatically by means of quantum mechanics via Coulomb’s law. These are the “parts” that make up materials. One conception of emergence is that new properties arise out of combinations of these parts, so that a material (solid, liquid, molecule, etc.) has properties that the parts do not. In this chapter we will discuss examples of how properties emerge from the parts when described using only non-relativistic quantum mechanics. This is often called a first-principles approach. One of the most challenging problems in condensed matter physics today is predicting the properties of materials from first principles, that is, from knowledge of the nuclei, electrons and their interactions, but without the requirement of additional experimental information. Can we take a take a simple description of a material and give insight into its emergent properties? Can we predict the properties of everyday materials and objects around us, both simple and complex, ranging from metals to glasses, to complex technological materials and biological systems?

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