Devil's staircase in kinetically limited growth

GJ Ackland*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The devil's staircase is a term used to describe surface or an equilibrium phase diagram in which various ordered facets or phases are infinitely closely packed as a function of some model parameter. A classic example is a one-dimensional Ising model [P. Bak and R. Bruinsma, Phys. Rev. Lett. 49, 249 (1982)] wherein long-range and short-range forces compete, and the periodicity of the gaps between minority species covers all rational values. In many physical cases, crystal growth proceeds by adding surface layers that have the lowest energy, but are then frozen in place. The emerging layered structure is not the thermodynamic ground state, but is uniquely defined by the growth kinetics. It is shown that for such a system, the grown structure tends to the equilibrium ground state via a devil's staircase traversing an infinity of intermediate phases. It would be extremely difficult to deduce the simple growth law based on measurement made on such a grown structure. ©2002 The American Physical Society.
Original languageEnglish
Article number041605
Number of pages4
JournalPhysical Review E - Statistical, Nonlinear and Soft Matter Physics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2002




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