Coexistence of spinodal instability and thermal nucleation in thin-film rupture: Insights from molecular levels

TD Nguyen and M Fuentes-Cabrera and JD Fowlkes and PD Rack, PHYSICAL REVIEW E, 89, 032403 (2014).

DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevE.89.032403

Despite extensive investigation using hydrodynamic models and experiments over the past decades, there remain open questions regarding the origin of the initial rupture of thin liquid films. One of the reasons that makes it difficult to identify the rupture origin is the coexistence of two dewetting mechanisms, namely, thermal nucleation and spinodal instability, as observed in many experimental studies. Using a coarse-grained model and large-scale molecular dynamics simulations, we are able to characterize the very early stage of dewetting in nanometer- thick liquid-metal films wetting a solid substrate. We observe the features characteristic of both spinodal instability and thermal nucleation in the spontaneously dewetting films and show that these two macroscopic mechanisms share a common origin at molecular levels.

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