Home Up Order EST EST Overview

Feature Article

Feature Article EST Publications

Feature Article

Electronic Structure Tools was used for data analysis for this Centennial Feature Article published in the Journal of the American Ceramic Society.

Sept 27, 2000 -- 

R. H. French, "Origins and Applications of London Dispersion Forces and
Hamaker Constants in Ceramics", Centennial Feature Article, Journal of the
American Ceramic Society, 83, 9, 2117-46 (2000).


The London dispersion forces, along with the Debye and Keesom forces, constitute the long-range van der Waals forces. London and Hamaker’s work on the point to point dispersion interaction and Lifshitz’s development of the continuum theory of dispersion are the foundations of our understanding of dispersion forces. Dispersion forces are present for all materials and are intrinsically related to the optical properties and the underlying interband electronic structure of materials. The force law scaling constant of the dispersion force, known as the Hamaker constant, can be determined from spectral or parametric optical properties of materials combined with knowledge of the configuration of the materials. With recent access to new experimental and ab initio tools for determination of optical properties of materials, dispersion force research has new opportunities for detailed studies. Opportunities include development of improved index approximations and parametric representations of the optical properties for estimation of Hamaker constants. Expanded databases of London dispersion spectra of materials will permit accurate estimation of both non-retarded and retarded dispersion forces in complex configurations. Development of solutions for generalized multilayer configurations of materials are needed for the treatment of more complex problems such as graded interfaces.

Dispersion forces can play a critical role in materials applications. Typically they are a component with other forces in a force balance, and it is this balance that dictates the resulting behavior. The ubiquitous nature of the London dispersion forces makes them a factor in a wide spectrum of problems; they have been in evidence since the pioneering work of Young and Laplace on wetting, contact angles, and surface energies. Additional applications include the interparticle forces which can be measured by direct techniques such as atomic force microscopy. London dispersion forces are important in both adhesion and in sintering where the detailed shape at the crack tip and at the sintering neck can be controlled by the dispersion forces. Dispersion forces have an important role in the properties of numerous ceramics which contain intergranular films, and here the opportunity exists for the development of an integrated understanding of intergranular films which encompasses dispersion forces, segregation, multilayer adsorption, and structure. The intrinsic length scale at which there is a transition from the continuum perspective (dispersion forces), to the atomistic
perspective (encompassing interatomic bonds), is critical in many materials problems, and the relationship of dispersion forces and intergranular films may represent an important opportunity to probe this topic.

The London dispersion force is retarded at large separations, where the transit time of the electromagnetic interaction must be considered explicitly. Novel phenomena, such as equilibrium surficial films and bimodal wetting / dewetting, can arise in materials systems when the characteristic wavelengths of the interatomic bonds and the physical interlayer thicknesses lead to a change in the sign of the dispersion force. Use of these novel phenomena in future materials applications raises interesting opportunities in materials design.

Download a PDF Copy

For More Information Contact:

Deconvolution and Entropy Consulting
755 Snyder Hill, Ithaca NY 14850, USA
Tel: 607-272-6735
Fax: 607-330-4750
Internet: lkd1@cornell.edu

Last modified: June 07, 2004