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Molecular theory of vapor phase nucleation

Kusaka, Isamu (1998) Molecular theory of vapor phase nucleation. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology.


An attempt has been made to establish the foundation of molecular level theory of vapor phase nucleation. We have focused on evaluating the reversible work of cluster formation and followed two major trends in this direction, namely, statistical mechanical density functional theory and molecular level simulation.

We applied density functional theory to heterogeneous nucleation onto an ion. Our prime interest is to predict a sign preference of nucleation rate, which has been experimentally observed yet remained inexplicable in the classical framework. The theory indicates that asymmetry in ion-molecule interaction is directly responsible for the sign preference. The predicted sign dependence decreases as the supersaturation is increased. Our results from density functional theory agree well with the existing experimental observations.

Molecular simulation offers an alternative to molecular level approach. A long-standing issue of fundamental importance in cluster simulation is the precise definition of a cluster. Thus far, all attempts of defining a cluster had introduced ad hoc criteria to determine unambiguously whether a given molecule in the system belongs to vapor or to a cluster for any instantaneous configuration of molecules. From a careful examination of the context in which a cluster should be introduced into nucleation theory, we conclude that such a criterion is unnecessary. Then, we present a new approach to cluster simulation which is free of any arbitrariness involved in the definition of a cluster. Instead, it preferentially and automatically generates the physical clusters, defined as the density fluctuations that lead to nucleation, and determines their equilibrium distribution in a single simulation. The latter feature permits one to completely bypass the computationally demanding free energy evaluation that is necessary in a conventional simulation. The method is applied first to water using the SPC/E model. We then turn to H2SO4/H2O binary system to obtain a large section of the reversible work surface. The resulting surface is markedly different from that in classical theory and indicates that the rate limiting step of stable particle formation in this system is the binary collision of the sulfuric acid hydrates.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Major Option:Chemical Engineering
Thesis Committee:
  • Seinfeld, John H. (chair)
  • Gavalas, George R.
  • Flagan, Richard C.
  • Wang, Zhen-Gang
Defense Date:26 November 1997
Record Number:etd-01242008-085938
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:323
Deposited By: Imported from ETD-db
Deposited On:15 Feb 2008
Last Modified:25 Dec 2012 14:58

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