Ames Laboratory; Physics and Astronomy; Mathematics
Ames Laboratory, Mathematics, Physics and Astronomy
Physical Review E
Bistable nonequilibrium systems are realized in catalytic reaction-diffusion processes, biological transport and regulation, spatial epidemics, etc. Behavior in spatially continuous formulations, described at the mean-field level by reaction-diffusion type equations (RDEs), often mimics that of classic equilibrium van der Waals type systems. When accounting for noise, similarities include a discontinuous phase transition at some value, peq, of a control parameter, p, with metastability and hysteresis around peq. For each p, there is a unique critical droplet of the more stable phase embedded in the less stable or metastable phase which is stationary (neither shrinking nor growing), and with size diverging as p→peq. Spatially discrete analogs of these mean-field formulations, described by lattice differential equations (LDEs), are more appropriate for some applications, but have received less attention. It is recognized that LDEs can exhibit richer behavior than RDEs, specifically propagation failure for planar interphases separating distinct phases. We show that this feature, together with an orientation dependence of planar interface propagation also deriving from spatial discreteness, results in the occurrence of entire families of stationary droplets. The extent of these families increases approaching the transition and can be infinite if propagation failure is realized. In addition, there can exist a regime of generic two-phase coexistence where arbitrarily large droplets of either phase always shrink. Such rich behavior is qualitatively distinct from that for classic nucleation in equilibrium and spatially continuous nonequilibrium systems.
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