Surface-directed spinodal decomposition in a stressed, two-dimensional, thin film

S. M. Wise, J. S. Kim, W. C. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


Two-dimensional simulations of the spinodal decomposition of self-stressed, binary thin films using a Cahn-Hilliard model are presented. Two different sets of mechanical boundary conditions are considered, and compositional strains for a cubic-anisotropic system under plane strain are treated. A composition-dependent interaction energy is assumed at the free surface. Numerical solution of the coupled Cahn-Hilliard and elastic equilibrium equations are obtained using an efficient nonlinear multigrid method. Results of simulations show that, for large enough compositional strain, surface-directed decomposition occurs at the traction-free surface, even when there is negligible surface interaction energy initially attracting one of the components. This decomposition is controlled by elasticity, and results in a local alignment of phases perpendicular to the free surface, in contrast to the parallel alignment produced by surface energy in stress-free systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)151-163
Number of pages13
JournalThin Solid Films
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2005 Feb 1
Externally publishedYes


  • Computer simulation
  • Phase transitions
  • Surface stress
  • Wetting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Surfaces and Interfaces
  • Surfaces, Coatings and Films
  • Metals and Alloys
  • Materials Chemistry


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