Diffusion spreadability as a probe of the microstructure of complex media across length scales

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Understanding time-dependent diffusion processes in multiphase media is of great importance in physics, chemistry, materials science, petroleum engineering, and biology. Consider the time-dependent problem of mass transfer of a solute between two phases and assume that the solute is initially distributed in one phase (phase 2) and absent from the other (phase 1). We desire the fraction of total solute present in phase 1 as a function of time, S(t), which we call the spreadability, since it is a measure of the spreadability of diffusion information as a function of time. We derive exact direct-space formulas for S(t) in any Euclidean space dimension d in terms of the autocovariance function as well as corresponding Fourier representations of S(t) in terms of the spectral density, which are especially useful when scattering information is available experimentally or theoretically. These are singular results because they are rare examples of mass transport problems where exact solutions are possible. We derive closed-form general formulas for the short- and long-time behaviors of the spreadability in terms of crucial small- and large-scale microstructural information, respectively. The long-time behavior of S(t) enables one to distinguish the entire spectrum of microstructures that span from hyperuniform to nonhyperuniform media. For hyperuniform media, disordered or not, we show that the "excess"spreadability, S(∞)-S(t), decays to its long-time behavior exponentially faster than that of any nonhyperuniform two-phase medium, the "slowest"being antihyperuniform media. The stealthy hyperuniform class is characterized by an excess spreadability with the fastest decay rate among all translationally invariant microstructures. We obtain exact results for S(t) for a variety of specific ordered and disordered model microstructures across dimensions that span from hyperuniform to antihyperuniform media. Moreover, we establish a remarkable connection between the spreadability and an outstanding problem in discrete geometry, namely, microstructures with "fast"spreadabilities are also those that can be derived from efficient "coverings"of space. We also identify heretofore unnoticed, to our best knowledge, remarkable links between the spreadability S(t) and NMR pulsed field gradient spin-echo amplitude as well as diffusion MRI measurements. This investigation reveals that the time-dependent spreadability is a powerful, dynamic-based figure of merit to probe and classify the spectrum of possible microstructures of two-phase media across length scales.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number054102
JournalPhysical Review E
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Statistical and Nonlinear Physics
  • Statistics and Probability


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