“Simulated diffusion spreadability for characterizing the structure and transport properties of two-phase materials” is published in Acta Materialia

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Time-dependent diffusion processes between phases of heterogeneous materials are ubiquitous in a variety of contexts in the physical, chemical, and biological sciences. Examples of such materials include composites, porous materials, geological media, cellular solids, polymer blends, colloids, gels, and biological media. The recently developed diffusion spreadability, \(\mathcal{S}(t)\), provides a direct link between time-dependent interphase diffusive transport and the microstructure of two-phase materials across length scales (Torquato, 2021); thus making \(\mathcal{S}(t)\) a powerful dynamic means for classifying all statistically homogeneous microstructures, spanning from anti-hyperuniform to hyperuniform. It was shown that the small-, intermediate-, and long- time behaviors of \(\mathcal{S}(t)\) are directly determined by the small-, intermediate-, and large-scale structural features of the material. Moreover, the spreadability can be applied as a physical-property based tool for microstructural characterization in the absence of or as supplement to scattering information. In this work, we develop a computationally efficient algorithm for ascertaining \(\mathcal{S}(t)\) directly from digitized representations of material microstructures via random-walk techniques. Our algorithm yields the time-dependent local walker concentration field \(c(\mathbf{x},t)\), a quantity not previously examined in the context of the spreadability, enabling us to compute the entropy production rate \(\dot{s}(t)\) of the associated diffusion process, which is a quantity related to the rate of energy dissipation. We also derive exact analytical expressions for \(\dot{s}(t)\), and find that hyperuniform materials have smaller dissipation than any nonhyperuniform materials. Lastly, we use our algorithm to compute, for the first time, the more general case of the spreadability in which the phase diffusion coefficients are distinct and provide a method for extracting the effective diffusion coefficient of the two-phase material from such data. We apply our algorithm to a variety of two- and three-dimensional simulated model (non)hyperuniform microstructures to assess their large-scale structures and diffusion properties. Given previously identified connections between the spreadability and certain nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) procedures, our algorithm is also pertinent to such experimental studies. Overall, our algorithm has practical use in the discovery and design of heterogeneous materials with desirable time-dependent diffusion properties.