Authors: James A. Smith
The story behind this article is instructive, and even a bit troubling. I wrote it in 1991 as a continuation of part of my Doctoral thesis, which I’d completed a few years earlier. During that research, I’d found that scientists who’d done very fine laboratory work on Ostwald ripening during the 1960s had made a curious error in simple mass balances when deriving a rate equation for Ostwald ripening starting from the minimum-entropy-production-rate (MEPR) principle. That error led the 1960s scientists to reject (with commendable honesty) their hypothesis that the MEPR principle is applicable to Ostwald ripening. Like all the rest of us metallurgists back then, I didn’t catch that error, until I examined the derivation of the MEPR-based rate equation in detail during my thesis work. However, I didn’t manage to re-derive the rate equation fully until I took up the subject again in the early 1990s. The scientists who did such fine lab work in the 1960s would no doubt have been pleased to learn that their empirical results agreed quite well with predictions made by the corrected equation. Thus, those scientists were correct in their hypothesis about the MEPR principle’s applicability. I continue to wonder how we metallurgists overlooked, for more than two decades, the simple error that led those scientists to conclude, mistakenly but honestly, that they’d been wrong. I never did manage to publish this article, but the same derivations and analyses were published by other researchers within a few years. Some of the reviewers’ comments on the article are addressed in the second article in this document, “Comments on ‘Ostwald Ripening Growth Rate for Nonideal Systems with Significant Mutual Solubility’”.
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