Topological complexity and the dynamics of coarsening

R. Mendoza, I. Savin, K. Thornton, P. W. Voorhees*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


Coarsening or Ostwald ripening occurs in a vast array of two-phase systems. Coarsening results in a decrease in the interfacial area per unit volume and a concomitant increase in the size scale of the interfacial morphology. Much is known about the coarseningprocess in two-phase mixtures consisting of a polydisperse array of spherical particles. In contrast, in many two-phase mixtures, such as those found in two-phase polymers, ceramics, dendritic solid-liquid mixtures and order-disorder transformations, the interfaces are both interconnected and have a spatially varying mean curvature. Here we show that the morphological evolution of these topologically complex systems during coarsening can be quantified by measuring the probability of finding a patch of interface with a given curvature tensor. We find that the morphological evolution is described by the flow of probability density in this curvature space that is induced by the coarsening process. The hallmark of our approach is a close coupling between experiment and theory; we use the experimentally measured three-dimensional microstructure as an input to a phase-field calculation that then determines the flow in curvature space. The methodology is general, and applicable to many systems undergoing coarsening, regardless of their topology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)385-388
Number of pages4
JournalNature materials
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


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