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The potential distribution around growing fractal clusters


THE process of diffusion-limited aggregation (DLA) is a common means by which clusters grow from their constituent particles, as exemplified by the formation of soot and the aggregation of colloids in solution. DLA growth is a probabilistic process which results in the formation of fractal (self-similar) clusters. It is controlled by the harmonic measure (the gradient of the electrostatic potential) around the cluster's boundary. Here we show that interactive computer graphics can provide new insight into this potential distribution. We find that points of highest and lowest growth probability can lie unexpectedly close together, and that the lowest growth probabilities may lie very far from the initial seed. Our illustrations also reveal the prevalence of 'fjords' in which the pattern of equipotential lines involves a 'mainstream' with almost parallel walls. We suggest that an understanding of the low values of the harmonic measure will provide new understanding of the growth mechanism itself.

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Mandelbrot, B., Evertsz, C. The potential distribution around growing fractal clusters. Nature 348, 143–145 (1990).

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