On the Thermodynamic Stability of Confined Thin Films Under Shear

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Science  22 Oct 1993:
Vol. 262, Issue 5133, pp. 545-547
DOI: 10.1126/science.262.5133.545


Thin films of monatomic fluid constrained between two plane-parallel structured solid walls have been modeled by Monte Carlo simulation under conditions (fixed temperature, chemical potential, and normal stress or load) prevailing in high-precision measurements of surface forces. Several states of the film, corresponding to different numbers of layers of fluid parallel with the walls, are generally consistent with these conditions, but only one is thermodynamically stable; the others are metastable. When the walls are properly aligned, epitaxial solid phases are stable. These melt under shear, eventually becoming metastable, whereupon a drainage (or imbibition) transition occurs, leading to a stable phase with fewer (or more) layers.