Two-step vapor-crystal nucleation close below triple point
We present the results of Monte Carlo simulations of crystal nucleation from the vapor phase. We studied the LennardÂ–Jones system at conditions close to, but below, the triple point. This system is expected to show surface melting. The nucleation pathway that we observe consists of two distinct steps. In the first step, a liquid droplet nucleates from the vapor. Its nucleation rate depends strongly on the vapor supersaturation. In the second step, the final crystal phase nucleates in the liquid droplet, provided that this liquid droplet exceeds a minimum size. Our simulations show that within a liquid droplet the crystal nucleation rate does not depend on the vapor supersaturation. In a recent independent study Chen et al. [J. Phys. Chem. B 112, 4069 (2008)] investigated the same phenomenon using umbrella sampling to compute free energy barriers and hence nucleation rates. We use a different numerical approach where we focus on computing the nucleation rates directly using forward-flux sampling. Our results agree with the findings of Chen et al. and both methods observe two-step nucleation. This finding indicates that this nucleation process can be described with a quasiequilibrium theory. Due to different cutoffs for the interaction potential the results cannot be compared quantitatively.