Van der Waals Picture of Liquids, Solids, and Phase Transformations

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Science  20 May 1983:
Vol. 220, Issue 4599, pp. 787-794
DOI: 10.1126/science.220.4599.787


The van der Waals picture focuses on the differing roles of the strong short-ranged repulsive intermolecular forces and the longer ranged attractions in determining the structure and dynamics of dense fluids and solids. According to this physical picture, the attractive interactions help fix the volume of the system, but the arrangements and motions of molecules within that volume are determined primarily by the local packing and steric effects produced by the repulsive forces. This very useful approach, its limitations, and its successful application to a wide variety of static and dynamic phenomena in condensed matter systems are reviewed.