Introduction to Phase Transitions

This is meant to be a brief introduction to the physics of phase transitions. We will examine qualitatively the central ideas by which a physicist understands and analyzes phase transitions. We will see that a phase transition is not limited to the transformations of gas to liquid to solid that we experience on a daily basis, but is defined by attributes that apply to a broad range of phenomena. Understanding the phase transition in the broadest sense allows the physicist to apply his understanding to a wide range of physical problems and systems, and also to comprehend the fundamental nature of physical phenomena. This reductionist approach is what makes studying physics wonderful, and the fact that it actually applies to the world in which we love is wondrous.

We consider some basic facts about phase transitions, using examples and language from a range of disciplines. We finish by using the example of phase transitions in melts of diblock copolymers to illustrate all the ideas that were introduced.
  1. Phase Transitions
  2. Matter
  3. Degrees of Freedom
  4. Examples of Phase Transitions
  5. Energy and Entropy
  6. Criticality
  7. Diblock Copolymers