Nucleation in systems with a metastable liquid–gas critical point is the prototypical example of a two-step nucleation process in which the appearance of the critical nucleus is preceded by the formation of a liquid-like density fluctuation. So far, the majority of studies on colloidal and protein crystallization have focused on one-component systems, and we are lacking a clear description of two-step nucleation processes in multicomponent systems, where critical fluctuations involve coupled density and concentration inhomogeneities. Here, we examine the nucleation process of a binary mixture of patchy particles designed to nucleate into a diamond lattice. By combining Gibbs-ensemble simulations and direct nucleation simulations over a wide range of thermodynamic conditions, we are able to pin down the role of the liquid–gas metastable phase diagram on the nucleation process. In particular, we show that the strongest enhancement of crystallization occurs at an azeotropic point with the same stoichiometric composition of the crystal.
Two-step nucleation in a binary mixture of patchy particles
Note: This paper is part of the JCP Special Topic on Nucleation: Current Understanding Approaching 150 Years After Gibbs.
Camilla Beneduce, Diogo E. P. Pinto, Petr Šulc, Francesco Sciortino, John Russo; Two-step nucleation in a binary mixture of patchy particles. J. Chem. Phys. 21 April 2023; 158 (15): 154502. https://doi.org/10.1063/5.0140847
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