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Spinodal decomposition is one way for a blend of two things to come unmixed. In spinodal decomposition the components of the blend spontaneously separate, forming complex interwoven swirls of composition. In the thermodynamics of phase separation, there are two regimes. in one regime the energy cost to form an interface between the two separate phases is greater than the energy saved by keeping the incompatable components separated. In this regime there is an activation barrier or activation eneregy needed to form the interface. Once an interface is formed, a domain of one phase is nucleated inside the other and growth. This is referred to as “nucleation and growth”.
In spinodal decomposition, the energy penalty for boundary or interface formation is less than the energy saved by separating the phases. Phase separation occurs spontaneously through a more “fluid” process known as “Spinodal decomposition”.
In Materials Science and Metallurgy, components and phases aren’t necessarily exactly the same thing. There are the chemical components of a material – the unique atomic or molecular species that comprise the material. Phases are often solutions of one component in the other, or event ordered arrangements of components. To find out more, look up: phase diagrams, solid solutions, metallurgical phases, metallurgical microstructure, steel microstructure, spinodal decomposition, nucleation, phase transitions.
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