Celebrating the Finnis-Sinclair potentials
11 March 2010
On 10 February, an event was held at the College to mark the publication of a special issue of Philosophical Magazine which commemorated a landmark paper, published 25 years ago by Mike Finnis (Materials) and Jim Sinclair who formerly worked at Atomic Energy Research Establishment, Harwell.
Their paper, A Simple Empirical N-Body Potential for Transition Metals, provided a simple mathematical model of the forces acting between the atoms in metals such as molybdenum, tungsten and iron, with which the movements and arrangements of atoms could be simulated and visualised. It helped scientists understand the processes that occur in a metal in normal use, when it is deformed, or in a nuclear reactor when it is damaged by irradiation. Until then, such models had been inadequate to represent even the simplest properties of these metals. With over 1,500 citations it is the most highly cited paper of Philosophical Magazine
To mark the silver anniversary of the paper’s publication, the journal’s editors had invited Professors Adrian Sutton (Physics), Graeme Ackland (University of Edinburgh) and Vasek Vitek (University of Pennsylvania) to edit a special issue containing a set of articles that have used the so-called Finnis-Sinclair potentials as the basis of their research. At the event, Paul Bristowe, the journal’s Associate Editor, presented the authors with handsome, leather-bound copies of the special issue.