A theory and challenges for coarsening in microstructure
- David Kinderlehrer (Carnegie Mellon University)
Cellular networks are ubiquitous in nature. Most engineered materials are polycrystalline microstructures composed of a myriad of small grains separated by grain boundaries, thus comprising cellular networks. The grain boundary character distribution (GBCD) is an empirical distribution of the relative length (in 2D) or area (in 3D) of interface with a given lattice misorientation and normal. During the coarsening, or growth, process, an initially random grain boundary arrangement reaches a steady state that is strongly correlated to the interfacial energy density. In simulation, if the given energy density depends only on lattice misorientation, then the steady state GBCD and the energy are related by a Boltzmann distribution. This is among the simplest non-random distributions, corresponding to independent trials with respect to the energy. Why does such simplicity emerge from such complexity? Here we elaborate on this and attempt to explain the identification of the statistic in terms of mass transport. Other opportunities emerge and we discuss our hunt for ‘gradient flows in the wild’.