Helsingin yliopisto


Helsingin yliopiston verkkojulkaisut

University of Helsinki, Helsinki 2006

Theoretical and computational approaches on heterogeneous nucleation

Antti Lauri

Doctoral dissertation, December 2006.
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Science, Department of Physical Sciences, Division of Atmospheric Sciences.

Nucleation is the first step of a first order phase transition. A new phase is always sprung up in nucleation phenomena. The two main categories of nucleation are homogeneous nucleation, where the new phase is formed in a uniform substance, and heterogeneous nucleation, when nucleation occurs on a pre-existing surface. In this thesis the main attention is paid on heterogeneous nucleation.

This thesis wields the nucleation phenomena from two theoretical perspectives: the classical nucleation theory and the statistical mechanical approach. The formulation of the classical nucleation theory relies on equilibrium thermodynamics and use of macroscopically determined quantities to describe the properties of small nuclei, sometimes consisting of just a few molecules. The statistical mechanical approach is based on interactions between single molecules, and does not bear the same assumptions as the classical theory.

This work gathers up the present theoretical knowledge of heterogeneous nucleation and utilizes it in computational model studies. A new exact molecular approach on heterogeneous nucleation was introduced and tested by Monte Carlo simulations. The results obtained from the molecular simulations were interpreted by means of the concepts of the classical nucleation theory.

Numerical calculations were carried out for a variety of substances nucleating on different substances. The classical theory of heterogeneous nucleation was employed in calculations of one-component nucleation of water on newsprint paper, Teflon and cellulose film, and binary nucleation of water-n-propanol and water-sulphuric acid mixtures on silver nanoparticles. The results were compared with experimental results. The molecular simulation studies involved homogeneous nucleation of argon and heterogeneous nucleation of argon on a planar platinum surface.

It was found out that the use of a microscopical contact angle as a fitting parameter in calculations based on the classical theory of heterogeneous nucleation leads to a fair agreement between the theoretical predictions and experimental results. In the presented cases the microscopical angle was found to be always smaller than the contact angle obtained from macroscopical measurements. Furthermore, molecular Monte Carlo simulations revealed that the concept of the geometrical contact parameter in heterogeneous nucleation calculations can work surprisingly well even for very small clusters.

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Last updated 30.11.2006

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