Volume 83, Number 4, August 2008
Article Number 46007
Number of page(s) 6
Section Condensed Matter: Structural, Mechanical and Thermal Properties
Published online 19 August 2008
EPL, 83 (2008) 46007
DOI: 10.1209/0295-5075/83/46007

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

J. F. Lutsko

Center for Nonlinear Phenomena and Complex Systems CP 231, Université Libre de Bruxelles - Blvd. du Triomphe, 1050 Brussels, Belgium, EU

received 13 June 2008; accepted in final form 3 July 2008; published August 2008
published online 19 August 2008

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.

64.60.Q- - Nucleation.
64.70.F- - Liquid-vapor transitions.
82.60.Nh - Thermodynamics of nucleation.

© EPLA 2008