Theoretical description of the nucleation of vapor bubbles in a superheated fluid

Lutsko, James F.
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The nucleation of vapor bubbles within a superheated fluid is studied using density functional theory. The nudged elastic band technique is used to find the minimum energy pathway from the metastable uniform liquid to the stable uniform gas thus emphasizing the analogy between the the nucleation problem and that of chemical reactions. The result is both an accurate determination of the critical nucleus and an unbiased description of the density profile at various points along the path between the free energy extrema. This calculation is compared to two other methods: the use of parametrized profiles and constrained minimization of the free energy. The results indicate that the recent claim, based on the constraint method, that bubble nucleation and growth involves an activated instability is incorrect.
Comment: To appear in Europhysics Letters
Condensed Matter - Statistical Mechanics, Condensed Matter - Materials Science, Condensed Matter - Soft Condensed Matter