3 years ago

Equilibrium between a Droplet and Surrounding Vapor: A Discussion of Finite Size Effects

Equilibrium between a Droplet and Surrounding Vapor:
A Discussion of Finite Size Effects
Peter Virnau, Fabian Schmitz, Andreas Tröster, Kurt Binder
In a theoretical description of homogeneous nucleation one frequently assumes an “equilibrium” coexistence of a liquid droplet with surrounding vapor of a density exceeding that of a saturated vapor at bulk vapor–liquid two-phase coexistence. Thereby one ignores the caveat that in the thermodynamic limit, for which the vapor would be called supersaturated, such states will at best be metastable with finite lifetime, and thus not be well-defined within equilibrium statistical mechanics. In contrast, in a system of finite volume stable equilibrium coexistence of droplet and supersaturated vapor at constant total density is perfectly possible, and numerical analysis of equilibrium free energies of finite systems allows to obtain physically relevant results. In particular, such an analysis can be used to derive the dependence of the droplet surface tension γ(R) on the droplet radius R by computer simulations. Unfortunately, however, the precision of the results produced by this approach turns out to be seriously affected by a hitherto unexplained spurious dependence of γ(R) on the total volume V of the simulation box. These finite size effects are studied here for the standard Ising/lattice gas model in d = 2 dimensions and an Ising model on the face-centered cubic lattice with 3-spin interaction, lacking symmetry between vapor and liquid phases. There also the analogous case of bubbles surrounded by undersaturated liquid is treated. It is argued that (at least a large part of) the finite size effects result from the translation entropy of the droplet or bubble in the system. This effect has been shown earlier to occur also for planar interfaces for simulations in the slab geometry. Consequences for the estimation of the Tolman length are briefly discussed. In particular, we find clear evidence that in d = 2 the leading correction of the curvature-dependent interface tension is a logarithmic term, compatible with theoretical expectations, and we show that then the standard Tolman-style analysis is inapplicable.

Publisher URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/acs.jpcb.7b10392

DOI: 10.1021/acs.jpcb.7b10392

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