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Nucleation barrier reconstruction via the seeding method in a lattice model with competing nucleation pathways
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We study a three-species analogue of the Potts lattice gas model of nucleation from solution in a regime where partially disordered solute is a viable thermodynamic phase. Using a multicanonical sampling protocol, we compute phase diagrams for the system, from which we determine a parameter regime where the partially disordered phase is metastable almost everywhere in the temperature–fugacity plane. The resulting model shows non-trivial nucleation and growth behaviour, which we examine via multidimensional free energy calculations. We consider the applicability of the model in capturing the multi-stage nucleation mechanisms of polymorphic biominerals (e.g., CaCO3). We then quantitatively explore the kinetics of nucleation in our model using the increasingly popular “seeding” method. We compare the resulting free energy barrier heights to those obtained via explicit free energy calculations over a wide range of temperatures and fugacities, carefully considering the propagation of statistical error. We find that the ability of the “seeding” method to reproduce accurate free energy barriers is dependent on the degree of supersaturation, and severely limited by the use of a nucleation driving force Δμ computed for bulk phases. We discuss possible reasons for this in terms of underlying kinetic assumptions, and those of classical nucleation theory.
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