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"Unsolvable" is not an excuse

[Translate to English:] Tobias Schaefer

With an ESPRIT grant from the Austrian Science Fund FWF, Tobias Schäfer is developing new computational methods to solve previously intractable quantum physics problems in computational materials physics.

The Schrödinger equation, the famous basic equation of quantum theory first published by Erwin Schrödinger in 1926, is almost a hundred years old. With this equation, it was possible for the first time to explain exactly the properties of a hydrogen atom, and in countless applications since then it has brilliantly proved its worth.
But the Schrödinger equation has a big problem: When many particles are involved at the same time, it becomes extremely complicated and cannot be solved exactly even with the best supercomputers in the world. And that's a shame - because it's precisely such many-particle problems that we often have to deal with in materials physics: How precisely can material properties be calculated? What happens on the surface of a catalyst at the atomic level? How much do certain material surfaces reduce the energy barriers for the production of solar fuels?