WIAS Preprint No. 1238, (2007)

The equilibria of vapour-liquid systems revisited


  • Dreyer, Wolfgang
  • Kraus, Christiane

2010 Mathematics Subject Classification

  • 82B26 49Q20

2008 Physics and Astronomy Classification Scheme

  • 64.70.Fx


  • two-phase fluid, mechanical and phase equilibria, surface tension, mean curvature, contact angle




We study equilibrium conditions of liquid-vapour phase transitions for a single substance at constant temperature. The phase transitions are modelled by a classical sharp interface model with boundary contact energy. We revisit this old problem mainly for the following reasons. Equilibria in a two-phase system can be established either under fixed external pressure or under fixed total volume. These two different settings lead to distinct equilibria, a fact that is usually ignored in the literature. In nature and in most technical processes, the approach of a two-phase system to equilibrium runs at constant pressure, whereas mathematicians prefer to study processes in constant domains, i.e. at constant volume. Furthermore, in the literature the sharp interface of the liquid and the vapour phase is usually described by a surface with high symmetry like a plane interface or a radially symmetric interface which has the shape of the boundary of a ball. In this paper we establish equilibrium conditions for pressure control as well as for volume control with arbitrary shapes of the interface. The results are derived by methods of differential geometry. Further, the common features and differences of pressure and volume control are worked out for some simple cases.

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