Transient nucleation near the mean-field spinodal
Abstract: Nucleation is considered near the pseudospinodal in a one-dimensional $\phi^4$ model with a nonconserved order parameter and long-range interactions. For a sufficiently large system or a system with slow relaxation to metastable equilibrium, there is a non-negligible probability of nucleation occurring before reaching metastable equilibrium. This process is referred to as transient nucleation. The critical droplet is defined to be the configuration of maximum likelihood that is dynamically balanced between the metastable and stable wells. Time-dependent droplet profiles and nucleation rates are derived, and theoretical results are compared to computer simulations. The analysis reveals a distribution of nucleation times with a distinct peak characteristic of a nonstationary nucleation rate. Under the quench conditions employed, transient critical droplets are more compact than the droplets found in metastable equilibrium simulations and theoretical predictions.