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Solutions to the

Diffusion Equation

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Solutions to Ficks Laws


Ficks second law, isotropic one-dimensional

diffusion, D independent of concentration

"c
"2 c
=D 2
"t
"x

Figure removed due to copyright restrictions.


See Figure 4.1 in Balluffi, Robert W., Samuel M. Allen, and W. Craig Carter.
Kinetics of Materials. Hoboken, NJ: J. Wiley & Sons, 2005. ISBN: 0471246891.

Linear PDE; solution requires one initial

!
condition and two boundary conditions.

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Steady-State Diffusion

When the concentration field is independent of


time and D is independent of c, Ficks second
law is reduced to Laplaces equation, "2 c = 0
For simple geometries, such as permeation
!
through a thin membrane, Laplaces
equation can
be solved by integration.

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(a)

Examples of steady-state profiles

Diffusion through a flat plate


Figure removed due to copyright restrictions.
See Figure 5.1 in Balluffi, Robert W., Samuel M. Allen, and W. Craig Carter.
Kinetics of Materials. Hoboken, NJ: J. Wiley & Sons, 2005. ISBN: 0471246891.

(b)

Diffusion through a cylindrical shell

Figure removed due to copyright restrictions.


See Figure 5.2 in Balluffi, Robert W., Samuel M. Allen, and W. Craig Carter.
Kinetics of Materials. Hoboken, NJ: J. Wiley & Sons, 2005. ISBN: 0471246891.

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Error function solution


Interdiffusion in two semi-infinite bodies

Figure removed due to copyright restrictions.


See Figure 4.2 in Balluffi, Robert W., Samuel M. Allen, and W. Craig Carter.
Kinetics of Materials. Hoboken, NJ: J. Wiley & Sons, 2005. ISBN: 0471246891.

Solution can be obtained by a scaling method


that involves a single variable, " # x 4Dt
# x &
)c # x &
c(") = c%
( = c + erf %
(
$ 4Dt '
$ 4Dt '
! 2
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erf (x) is known as the error function and is


2 x $% 2
defined by
erf x "
e d%
( )

&
# 0

An example:
c( x < 0, 0!
) = 0;c( x > 0, 0) = 1;c("#,t ) = 0; c(#,t ) = 1; D = 10"16

t = 102, 103, 104, 105


!

Application to
problems with
fixed c at surface
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Movie showing time dependence of erf solution

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Superposition of solutions

When the diffusion equation is linear, sums of


solutions are also solutions. Here is an example
that uses superposition of error-function solutions:
Figure removed due to copyright restrictions.
See Figure 4.4 in Balluffi, Robert W., Samuel M. Allen, and W. Craig Carter.
Kinetics of Materials. Hoboken, NJ: J. Wiley & Sons, 2005. ISBN: 0471246891.

Two step functions, properly positioned, can be


summed to give a solution for finite layer placed
between two semi-infinite bodies.
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Superposed error functions, contd

The two step functions (moved left/right by x/2):

# x + "x 2 &,
c0 )
cleft = +1+ erf %
(.
$ 4Dt '2*
# x / "x 2 &,
c0 )
cright = / +1+ erf %
(.
$ 4Dt '2*

and their sum

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clayer

# x ) "x 2 &c0 * # x + "x 2 &


= ,erf %
( ) erf %
(/
$ 4 Dt '.
2 + $ 4Dt '
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Superposed error functions, contd


An example:

c("#,t ) = 0; c(#,t ) = 0; c( x $ "%x / 2, 0) = 0;c("%x / 2 < x < %x / 2) = 1;


c( x & %x / 2, 0) = 0;%x = 2 '10"6 ; D = 10"16

t = 101, 103, 104, 105


Application to
problems with
zero-flux plane

at surface x = 0

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Movie showing time dependence of superimposed


erf solutions

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The thin-film solution


The thin-film solution can be obtained from the


previous example by looking at the case where x
is very small compared to the diffusion distance,
x, and the thin film is initially located at x = 0:
N
# x 2 ( 4 Dt )
c( x,t ) =
e
4 "Dt

where N is the number of source atoms per unit


!
area initially
placed at x = 0.
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Diffusion in finite geometries


Time-dependent diffusion in finite bodies can


soften be solved using the separation of variables
technique, which in cartesian coordinates leads to
trigonometric-series solutions.
A solution of the form
c( x, y, z,t ) = X ( x) "Y ( y) " Z ( z) " T (t )

is sought.

!
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Substitution into Ficks second law gives two


ordinary-differential equations for onedimensional diffusion:
dT
= "#DT
dt
d2X
= "#X
2
dx

where is a constant determined from the


boundary conditions.
!

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Example: degassing a thin plate in a vacuum

c(0 < x < L, 0) = c0 ; c(0,t ) = c( L,t ) = 0

The function X(x) turns out to be the Fourier series


representation of the initial conditionin this
!
case, it is a Fourier sine-series representation of a
constant, c0:
)
&
#
x
Xn ( x) = * an sin%n" (
$ L'
n=1

with
!

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2c0
an =
L

$ #'
* sin&%n" L )( d#
0

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degassing a thin plate, contd


The function T(t) must have the form:
2 2
'
$
n
#

Tn (t ) = Tn exp&" 2 Dt )
% L
(

and thus the solution is given by KoM Eq. 5.47:

4c0
!
c( x,t ) =
"

2
* 1
#
x & # (2 j +1) " 2 &1,, 2 j +1 sin%$(2 j +1)" L (' exp%) L2 Dt (//
$
'.
j=0+
0

!
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degassing a thin plate, contd


Example:

c(0,t ) = 0; c( L,t ) = 0; c(0 < x < L, 0) = 1


L = 10"5 ; D = 10"16

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Other useful solution methods

Estimation of diffusion distance from x " 4Dt


Superposition of point-source solutions to get
solutions for arbitrary initial conditions c(x,0)
!
Method of Laplace transforms
Useful for constant-flux boundary conditions,
time-dependent boundary conditions
Numerical methods
Useful for complex geometries, D = D(c), timedependent boundary conditions, etc.
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