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MK Hazra, S Sarkar and B Bagchi
Abstract
We study microscopic aspects of initial phase separation through atomistic molecular dynamics simulation of a structure breaking liquid binary mixture. We find that the phase separation kinetics in a fluid binary mixture model system can indeed be unusual. It can be fast, with a crossover from a pronounced exponential to non-exponential and non-linear dynamics. An important outcome of this work is the quantification of time scales involved in phase separation kinetics at an early stage. The initial exponential phase separation is complete within ∼100 ps. The initial phase separation involves aggregation of small droplets that form rapidly after the quench. This is followed by segregation that gives rise to pattern formation with multiple bands of segregated species. During this initial phase, a particle is found to have moved only about ∼5 molecular diameters. The next stage is slower and characterized by break-up and disappearance of small islands of species trapped inside the domains of other species of the binary mixture. The phase separation in this second stage is highly non-exponential and power-law-like. We identify a new feature in the very late stage of phase separation kinetics that seems to have eluded previous attention, the smoothing of the rugged interface between the two species. This is opposite to the roughening transition one finds on the surface of solids in contact with its vapor phase. The present atomistic simulation provides a molecular picture in terms of molecular motions and displacements.
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