Initiation of a phase transition by preexisting nuclei

Vitaly A. Shneidman, Peter Hänggi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Preexisting nuclei are often invoked in situations where the observed kinetics of a phase transition is much faster than one would expect from the classical theory of homogeneous nucleation. We examine analytically the time-dependent effects produced by such nuclei. Corrections to the number of nucleated particles, the time lag, and the transient rate of homogeneous nucleation are derived. For a high nucleation barrier the results are expected to be asymptotically accurate, both for the continuous ("Zeldovich- Frenkel") and the discrete ("Becker-Döring") nucleation models. This is confirmed by comparison with exact expressions available for a parabolic barrier in the continuous case, and with numerical solutions of the discrete Master equation. The probability formulation of the nucleation problem is also considered and the distribution of waiting times to detect the first "successful" nucleus is obtained.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1503-1512
Number of pages10
JournalThe Journal of Chemical Physics
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1994
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Physics and Astronomy
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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