** Journal of Modern Physics** Vol.3 No.1(2012), Article ID:17105,5 pages DOI:10.4236/jmp.2012.31012

Simple Landau Model of the Liquid-R_{II}-R_{I} Rotator Phases of Alkanes

Department of Physics, Presidency University, 86/1, College Street, Kolkata-700073, India

Email: ^{*}pkmuk1966@gmail.com

Received October 15, 2011; revised December 16, 2011; accepted December 29, 2011

**Keywords:** rotator phases; phase transitions; Landau theory

ABSTRACT

Simple Landau free energy function is presented to describe the Liquid-R_{II}-R_{I} phase sequence of alkanes and transitions between them. The order parameters necessary to describe these rotator phase transitions are identified. We present a mean-field description of the Liquid-R_{II} and Liquid-R_{I} transitions. General arguments are presented for the topology of the phase diagram in the vicinity of the Liquid-R_{II}-R_{I} triple point. Within this model the Liquid-R_{II} and Liquid-R_{I} transitions are found to be always strongly first order. Calculations based on this model agree qualitatively with experiments.

1. Introduction

During the last two decades much progress has taken place in the field of rotator phases. Rotator phases are among the most interesting condensed states of matter exhibited by normal alkanes (), alcohols, and other hydrocarbon chain systems consisting of layered structures with three dimensional crystalline order of the center of mass, but no long range orientational order of the molecules about their long axes. Rotator phases have a number of unique and unusual properties which include surface crystallization, anomalous heat capacity, negative thermal compressibilities and unusually high thermal expansions. Five different rotator phases had been identified. The rotator-II () phase is usually described as composed of molecules that are untilted with respect to the layers that are packed in a hexagonal lattice. The layers are stacked in an ABCABC... trilayer stacking sequence. This phase is also referred to as the rhombohedral phase. In the rotator-I () phase the molecules are also untilted with respect to the layers and there is a rectangularly distorted hexagonal lattice. The layers are stacked in an ABAB... bilayer stacking sequence. This phase is referred to as the face-centered-orthorhombic (FCO) phase. In shorter chain lengths the phase sequence was reported to be Liquid-R_{II}-R_{I}-Crystal.

A large number of experimental studies [1-10] are devoted to describe the structure and the phase transitions of the rotator phases. According to the X-ray scattering study by Sirota et al. [3], the R_{II}-R_{I} transition is first order with jump of the distortion order parameter and sharp peak on the heat capacity data [4]. The binary mixtures of normal alkanes [11-14] also shows a first order character of the R_{II}-R_{I} transition. Sirota et al. [15] carried out a high pressure study on the R_{II}-R_{I} transition and confirmed the first order character of the R_{II}-R_{I} transition. Zammit et al. [7,8] studied the IL-R_{II} and R_{II}-R_{I} transitions in pure and binary mixtures of alkanes. Over the IL-R_{II} transition, they observed the single peak in both the specific heat and latent heat in the pure material, splits into two features at different temperatures. This indicates the first order character of the IL-R_{II} transition. They also confirmed the first order character of the R_{II}-R_{I} transitions. The presence of the thermal hysteresis at these transitions indicates the first order character of the transition.

Theoretical studies of the R_{II}-R_{I} transition follow two main lines. The first approach consists of Monte Carlo and molecular dynamics simulations [16-22] which confirms the first order character of the Liquid-R_{II} (IL-R_{II}) and R_{II}-R_{I} transitions. The second approach is pursued by Wurger [23] and Mukherjee [24-34]. Wurger [23] developed a microscopic model for the pair interaction of hydrocarbon chains and discussed the detailed structure of the R_{I} and R_{II} phases in terms of a molecular-field approximation. In a series of paper Mukherjee [24-26] discussed R_{II}-R_{I} phase transition within Landau phenomenological approach and discussed in detail the various aspect of this transition including the elastic properties.

To the best of the author’s knowledge, there is so far no detailed theoretical studies on the IL-R_{II}-R_{I} phase sequence and the transitions between them. The purpose of the present paper is to investigate the IL-R_{II}-R_{I} phase sequence and the transitions between them within Landau theory. We define a new order parameter to describe the IL-R_{II} and IL-R_{I} phase transitions.

2. Model

Order Parameters

The R_{I} phase differs from the R_{II} phase only in the distortion of the hexagonal lattice. Following [5,35] we define the lattice distortion parameterwhere a and b are the major and minor axes of an ellipse draws through the six nearest neighbors. The distortion is defined with respect to a plane whose normal is parallel to the long molecular axes. for the R_{II} phase. Thus we take as an order parameter for the R_{II}-R_{I} transition.

Now to define the order parameter of the IL-R_{II} or IL-R_{I} transitions. The low temperature crystal phase of n-alkanes is found to exist in layered structures. In these cases the molecules stay in some layer stacking and the probability that a single molecule is present (partially) in two simultaneous layers is almost zero. When the temperature rises further the stacking breaks, i.e. the molecules start occupying positions which are shared by more than one layer stacking. We may choose to represent alternate layer sequences with suffixes etc. The bilayer stacking can be represented as and the trilayer stacking can be represented as We represent the probability of the k-th molecule of the system to occupy any of the j-th layer sequence as. For bilayer the only feasible cases are and, one of which is 1 and the other being 0 in perfect layer ordering. Now we define a correlation factor for the k-th molecule in a N-layer stacking as

(1)

This is clearly 0 in ordered layer phase and non-zero in other phases with lower or higher order.

The rotator phases of n-alkanes are found to exist in bilayer and trilayer structures. If we consider the correlation factor for the highest possible layer structure in the alkanes, i.e. trilayer we find that for the k-th molecule

(2)

It is 0 (or almost zero) in R_{II} and R_{I} phases which in nature are bilayer and trilayer respectively. does have a finite value in the liquid phase which can be calculated. In isotropic liquid phase the probability density of the k-th molecule is constant everywhere in space. So,

,

is the total number of layers. Hence can be expressed as

(3)

Thus is independent of k. Hence we define the correlation order parameter as

(4)

Here the average correlation factor is calculated for all molecules together.

Thus is 0 is the isotropic liquid phase and has a value >0 in the R_{I} and R_{II} phases.

3. Free Energy

Thus we take and as two order parameters involved in the R_{I}-R_{II}, IL-R_{II} and IL-R_{I} phase transitions. For simplicity we neglect the weak interlayer interaction between the stacking layers in different rotator phases so that the problem becomes two dimensional. The distortion is a two component order parameter; its components are expressed the distortion amplitude and the azimuthal angle. The multiplier 2 comes from the fact that the distortion is a symmetric traceless tensor. Since the the free energy is a scalar quantity, negative and positive and result in inequivalent structures, causing the Landau free energy expansion contain and terms, thus resulting in a first order transition. Expanding the total free energy in terms of the above mentioned order parameters yields

(5)

where is free energy of the isotropic liquid phase. The coefficients a and are assumed to vary strongly with an external parameter. For, free energy (5) describe a first order R_{I}-R_{II} transition for b > 0 and c > 0. In this case the minimum free energy occurs at, for b > 0 and at for b < 0. According to the experimental observations, in the R_{I} phase,. H is the coupling constant., , b, c and H are chosen positive.

The material parameters a and can be assumed as and. and are virtual transition temperatures. and are constants.

From the experimental phase diagrams [3] one observes, and can be portrayed as

andwhere is some specific chain length of the molecules. u and v are positive constants.

Minimization of Equation (5) with respect to and yields the following phases:

1) Isotropic liquid (IL) phase:,.

This phase exists for and a > 0.

2) R_{II} phase:,.

The R_{II} phase exists when and a > 0.

3) R_{I} phase:,.

The R_{I} phase exists for and a < 0.

Thus it is clear from the solutions that three types of transition are possible: 1) IL-R_{II}; 2) IL-R_{I}; 3) R_{II}-R_{I}.

The sufficient condition for the R_{I} phase to be stable are

(6)

(7)

(8)

These three conditions determine the stability of the R_{I} phase explicitly. The sufficient condition for the stability of the R_{II} phase reads

(9)

For the IL phase the stability conditions are and a > 0.

By lowering the temperature from the isotropic liquid phase, the R_{II} and R_{I} phases can appear sequentially or in partial sequence. The R_{II} and R_{I} phases can arise either directly from the IL phase along the curves IL-R_{II} and IL-R_{I} or along the curve R_{II}-R_{I}. In the spirit of Landau theory all the phase transitions IL-R_{II}, IL-R_{I} and R_{II}-R_{I} are first order because of the cubic invariant in the free energy expansion. If all the phase transitions involved are first order ones, then one can observe the IL-R_{II}-R_{I} triple point as observed in experiment [3].

The conditions for the first order R_{II}-R_{I} transition can be obtained as

(10)

The conditions for the first order IL-R_{I} transition are given by

(11)

The conditions for the first order IL-R_{II} transition read

(12)

Solving (10)-(12) simultaneously will determine the various phase transition lines. Figure 1 shows a typical phase diagram for the IL-R_{I}, IL-R_{II} and R_{II}-R_{I} phase transitions. As can be seen from the Figure 1, the R_{II} and R_{I} phases arise from the isotropic phase along the curves IL-R_{II} and IL-R_{I} or along the curve R_{II}-R_{I} respectively. The IL-R_{II} and IL-R_{I} transitions are first order because of the cubic invariant in the free energy expansion. The line of the R_{II}-R_{I} transition starts at the IL-R_{II}-R_{I} triple point as shown in Figure 1. When the temperature of the IL-R_{II} and of R_{II}-R_{I} transitions coincide, a triple point appears.

Figure 1. Possible chain length (n)-temperature (T) phase diagram in the vicinity of the Liquid-R_{II}-R_{I} triple point..

The region of the R_{I} phase shrinks and finally disappears when the IL-R_{II} transition takes place. In experimental studies [3], alkanes C20-C27 show such a IL-R_{II} transition via triple point. Thus the above analysis of the IL-R_{II}-R_{I} triple point agrees well with the experimental observations [3]. Thus there is always a direct IL-R_{II} transition is possible within the framework of our model free energy (6) satisfying the above stability conditions. Of course the IL-R_{I} transition could proceed before the IL-R_{II} the transition temperature is reached. To prevent this, has to be larger than the IL-R_{I} transition temperature Thus we have always . The cubic coefficient in the free energy (5) yields a first order IL-R_{II} transition at

with an order parameter jump and a latent heat of. The so-called temperature hysteresis is related to the existence of metastable states within a certain temperature range. The above analysis qualitatively agrees with experimental observations[3,4,7,8].

4. Conclusion

A simple model free energy has been constructed to describe the IL-R_{II}-R_{I} phase sequence and transitions between them. The order parameters are identified for different phase transitions. The model predicts the first order character of the IL-R_{II}, IL-R_{I} and R_{II}-R_{I} transitions and IL-R_{II}-R_{I} triple point in the phase diagram. The proposed interpretation of the IL-R_{II} transition allow us to explain the various types of phase behavior observed experimentally. These results are in qualitative agreement with all experiments reported so far.

5. Acknowledgements

PKM thanks the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation for equipment and book grant.

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NOTES

^{*}Corresponding author.