Monte Carlo study of hard pentagons
How does a liquid freeze if the geometry of its particles conflicts with the symmetry of the crystal it should naturally form? We study this question in the simplest model system of particles exhibiting such a symmetry mismatch: hard pentagons in two dimensions. Using isobaric and isotensic Monte Carlo simulations we have studied the phase behavior of hard pentagons. On increasing the pressure from the homogeneous and isotropic low-density phase, the system first exhibits a rotator phase (plastic solid) with a triangular lattice structure. At higher densities it undergoes a weak first-order phase transition into a "striped" phase composed of alternating rows of oppositely pointing particles. This phase is analogous to the "striped" phase in the compressible antiferromagnetic Ising model on a triangular lattice and is an example of systems in which frustration due to the mismatch in symmetries is released by an elastic coupling to the lattice. In order to pursue this analogy we also consider hard heptagons, showing that in this case the decrease in symmetry mismatch indeed leads to a shift in the transition densities to higher values and a weakening of the transition.