Michele Parrinello is renowned for co-devising the Car–Parrinello method for computer simulation of the movements of atoms and molecules. Software implementing this method gives researchers a ‘virtual lab’ in which the properties of products of chemical reactions can be reliably predicted. This means that only the most promising need go forward to real laboratories.
Michele’s work brought together, for the first time, the classical — or Newtonian — approach of molecular dynamics with a quantum theoretical approach for electron densities. This enabled the exploration of a wider range of physically realistic situations. Michele is also known for developing the Parrinello–Rahman method used in studies of phase transitions in crystals under constant pressure.
The impact of Michele’s work is such that he is one of the most cited scientists in the present day. He has been awarded numerous prizes, including the American Chemical Society Award in Theoretical Chemistry, the American Physical Society’s Rahman Prize, and the Dirac Medal of the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics in 2009.