Phase field theory of heterogeneous crystal nucleation

László Gránásy1,2, Tamás Pusztai1, D Saylor, James A. Warren3

1Institute for Solid State Physics and Optics, Wigner Research Centre for Physics, P.O. Box 49, Budapest H-1525, Hungary
2BCAST, Brunel University, Uxbridge, Middlesex, UB8 3PH, United Kingdom
3Metallurgy Division, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, Maryland 20899, USA

The phase field approach is used to model heterogeneous crystal nucleation in an undercooled pure liquid in contact with a foreign wall. We discuss various choices for the boundary condition at the wall and determine the properties of critical nuclei, including their free energy of formation and the contact angle as a function of undercooling. For particular choices of boundary conditions, we may realize either an analog of the classical spherical cap model or decidedly nonclassical behavior, where the contact angle decreases from its value taken at the melting point towards complete wetting at a critical undercooling, an analogue of the surface spinodal of liquid-wall interfaces.