, Volume 48, Issue 2, pp 603-615

Dynamical signatures of ‘phase transitions’: Chaos in finite clusters

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Abstract

Finite clusters of atoms or molecules, typically composed of about 50 particles (and often as few as 13 or even less) have proved to be useful prototypes of systems undergoing phase transitions. Analogues of the solid-liquid melting transition, surface melting, structural phase transitions and the glass transition have been observed in cluster systems. The methods of nonlinear dynamics can be applied to systems of this size, and these have helped elucidate the nature of the microscopic dynamics, which, as a function of internal energy (or ‘temperature’) can be in a solidlike, liquidlike, or even gaseous state. The Lyapunov exponents show a characteristic behaviour as a function of energy, and provide a reliable signature of the solid-liquid melting phase transition. The behaviour of such indices at other phase transitions has only partially been explored. These and related applications are reviewed in the present article.