Belashchenko group - Research
Our research is in computational electronic theory of solids. Usually we use so-called first-principles techniques which are based in one way or another on the solution of the quantum-mechanical Schroedinger equation for the given material or nanostructure. The solutions may be used to calculate various measurable properties such as the atomic structure, magnetization, electric resistance or resistivity, response to external fields, spectroscopic properties, etc. Because the general equations are unsolvable, physical insight and clever approximations are always needed to make the calculations manageable. Many different techniques are available, and new ones are constantly being developed. Our work includes both application of appropriate methods to problems of fundamental and practical interest and development of new computational techniques.
Much of our research is related to "spintronic" applications, i. e. those dealing with existing or potential electronic devices whose operation depends on the manipulation of the electron spin (rather than charge used in traditional semiconductor electronics). Examples include magnetic tunnel junctions which are used as miniature field sensors in hard-drive read heads and as non-volatile random-access memory bits in specialized microchips, magnetoelectric heterostructures that can potentially enable fast, non-volatile, and low-power "magnetoelectric memory," or devices based on injection, manipulation, and detection of spin-polarized currents in semiconductors, which may potentially lead to a new generation of more efficient devices for computers. Our research, in particular, helps understand the properties of materials, as well as those of their surfaces or interfaces, which may be useful for such devices.