Hard sphere model

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Phase diagram (pressure vs packing fraction) of hard sphere system (Solid line - stable branch, dashed line - metastable branch)

The hard sphere model (sometimes known as the rigid sphere model) is defined as

where is the intermolecular pair potential between two spheres at a distance , and is the diameter of the sphere. The hard sphere model can be considered to be a special case of the hard ellipsoid model, where each of the semi-axes has the same length, .

First simulations of hard spheres (1954-1957)[edit]

The hard sphere model, along with its two-dimensional manifestation hard disks, was one of the first ever systems studied using computer simulation techniques with a view to understanding the thermodynamics of the liquid and solid phases and their corresponding phase transition [1] [2] [3], much of this work undertaken at the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory on the world's first electronic digital computer ENIAC [4].

Liquid phase radial distribution function[edit]

The following are a series of plots of the hard sphere radial distribution function [5] shown for different values of the number density . The horizontal axis is in units of where is set to be 1. Click on image of interest to see a larger view.

The value of the radial distribution at contact, , can be used to calculate the pressure via the equation of state (Eq. 1 in [6])

where the second virial coefficient, , is given by


Carnahan and Starling [7] provided the following expression for (Eq. 3 in [6])

where is the packing fraction.

Over the years many groups have studied the radial distribution function of the hard sphere model: [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] [17] [18]

Liquid-solid transition[edit]

The hard sphere system undergoes a liquid-solid first order transition [19] [20], sometimes referred to as the Kirkwood-Alder transition [21]. The liquid-solid coexistence densities () has been calculated to be

1.041(4) 0.943(4) [19]
1.0376 0.9391 [22]
1.0367(10) 0.9387(10) [23]
1.0372 0.9387 [24]
1.0369(33) 0.9375(14) [25]
1.037 0.938 [26]
1.033(3) 0.935(2) [27]
1.03715(9) 0.93890(7) [28]

The coexistence pressure has been calculated to be

11.5727(10) [29]
11.57(10) [23]
11.567 [22]
11.55(11) [30]
11.54(4) [25]
11.50(9) [31]
11.48(11) [27]
11.43(17) [32]
11.550(4) [28]

The coexistence chemical potential has been calculated to be

15.980(11) [27]
16.053(4) [28]

The Helmholtz energy function (in units of ) is given by

4.887(3) 3.719(8) [27]

The melting and crystallization process has been studied by Isobe and Krauth [33].

Helmholtz energy function[edit]

Values for the Helmholtz energy function () are given in the following Table:

0.25 −1.766 0.002 Table I [34]
0.50 −0.152 0.002 Table I [34]
0.75 1.721 0.002 Table I [34]
1.04086 4.959 Table VI [24]
1.099975 5.631 Table VI [24]
1.150000 6.274 Table VI [24]

In [34] the free energies are given without the ideal gas contribution . Hence, it was added to the free energies in the table.

Interfacial Helmholtz energy function[edit]

The Helmholtz energy function of the solid–liquid interface has been calculated using the cleaving method giving (Ref. [35] Table I):

work per unit area/
0.636(11) [29]

Solid structure[edit]

The Kepler conjecture states that the optimal packing for three dimensional spheres is either cubic or hexagonal close packing, both of which have maximum densities of [36] [37] [38]. However, for hard spheres at close packing the face centred cubic phase is the more stable [39], with a Helmholtz energy function difference in the thermodynamic limit between the hexagonal close packed and face centered cubic crystals at close packing of 0.001164(8) [40]. Recently evidence has been found for a metastable cI16 phase [41] indicating the "cI16 is a mechanically stable structure that can spontaneously emerge from a bcc starting point but it is thermodynamically metastable relative to fcc or hcp".

Direct correlation function[edit]

For the direct correlation function see: [42] [43]

Bridge function[edit]

Details of the bridge function for hard sphere can be found in the following publication [44]

Equations of state[edit]

Main article: Equations of state for hard spheres

Virial coefficients[edit]

Main article: Hard sphere: virial coefficients

Experimental results[edit]

Pusey and van Megen used a suspension of PMMA particles of radius 305 10 nm, suspended in poly-12-hydroxystearic acid [45] For results obtained from the Colloidal Disorder - Order Transition (CDOT) experiments performed on-board the Space Shuttles Columbia and Discovery see Ref. [46]


Related systems[edit]

Hard spheres in other dimensions:


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  4. The ENIAC Story
  5. The total correlation function data was produced using the computer code written by Jiří Kolafa
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Related reading

External links[edit]