Upper Bound on the Coarsening Rate for an Epitaxial Growth Model

Robert V. Kohn, Xiaodong Yan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We study a specific example of energy-driven coarsening in two space dimensions. The energy is ∫|∇∇u|2 + (1 - |∇u|2)2; the evolution is the fourth-order PDE representing steepest descent. This equation has been proposed as a model of epitaxial growth for systems with slope selection. Numerical simulations and heuristic arguments indicate that the standard deviation of u grows like t 1/3, and the energy per unit area decays like t-1/3. We prove a weak, one-sided version of the latter statement: The time-averaged energy per unit area decays no faster than t-1/3. Our argument follows a strategy introduced by Kohn and Otto in the context of phase separation, combining (i) a dissipation relation, (ii) an isoperimetric inequality, and (iii) an ODE lemma. The interpolation inequality is new and rather subtle; our proof is by contradiction, relying on recent compactness results for the Aviles-Giga energy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1549-1564
Number of pages16
JournalCommunications on Pure and Applied Mathematics
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Mathematics
  • Applied Mathematics


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