Discontinuous non-equilibrium phase transition in a threshold Schloegl model for autocatalysis: Generic two-phase coexistence and metastability
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Threshold versions of Schloegl's model on a lattice, which involve autocatalytic creation and spontaneous annihilation of particles, can provide a simple prototype for discontinuous non-equilibrium phase transitions. These models are equivalent to so-called threshold contact processes. A discontinuous transition between populated and vacuum states can occur selecting a threshold of N ≥ 2 for the minimum number, N, of neighboring particles enabling autocatalytic creation at an empty site. Fundamental open questions remain given the lack of a thermodynamic framework for analysis. For a square lattice with N = 2, we show that phase coexistence occurs not at a unique value but for a finite range of particle annihilation rate (the natural control parameter). This generic two-phase coexistence also persists when perturbing the model to allow spontaneous particle creation. Such behavior contrasts both the Gibbs phase rule for thermodynamic systems and also previous analysis for this model. We find metastability near the transition corresponding to a non-zero effective line tension, also contrasting previously suggested critical behavior. Mean-field type analysis, extended to treat spatially heterogeneous states, further elucidates model behavior.
The following article appeared in Journal of Chemical Physics 142, 16 (2015): 164105 and may be found at doi: 10.1063/1.4918908.