Phase-field modeling of crystal nucleation in undercooled liquids – A review

We review how phase-field models contributed to the understanding of various aspects of crystal nucleation including homogeneous and heterogeneous processes, and their role in microstructure evolution. We recall results obtained both by the conventional phase-field approaches that rely on spatially averaged (coarse grained) order parameters in capturing freezing, and by the recently developed phase-field crystal models that work on the molecular scale, while employing time averaged particle densities, and are regarded as simple dynamical density functional theories of classical particles. Besides simpler cases of homogeneous and heterogeneous nucleation, phenomena addressed by these techniques include precursor assisted nucleation, nucleation in eutectic and phase separating systems, phase selection via competing nucleation processes, growth front nucleation (a process, in which grains of new orientations form at the solidification front) yielding crystal sheaves and spherulites, and transition between the growth controlled cellular and the nucleation dominated equiaxial solidification morphologies.