Atomistic simulations are a primary means of understanding the damage done to metallic materials by high energy particulate radiation. In many situations the electrons in a target material are known to exert a strong influence on the rate and type of damage. The dynamic exchange of energy between electrons and ions can act to damp the ionic motion, to inhibit the production of defects or to quench in damage, depending on the situation. Finding ways to incorporate these electronic effects into atomistic simulations of radiation damage is a topic of current major interest, driven by materials science challenges in diverse areas such as energy production and device manufacture.In this review, we discuss the range of approaches that have been used to tackle these challenges. We compare augmented classical models of various kinds and consider recent work applying semi-classical techniques to allow the explicit incorporation of quantum mechanical electrons within atomistic simulations of radiation damage. We also outline the body of theoretical work on stopping power and electron–phonon coupling used to inform efforts to incorporate electronic effects in atomistic simulations and to evaluate their performance.
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