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Statistical mechanics of specular reflections from fluctuating membranes and interfaces. (English) Zbl 07086067
Summary: We study the density of specular reflection points in the geometrical optics limit when light scatters off fluctuating interfaces and membranes in thermodynamic equilibrium. We focus on the statistical mechanics of both capillary-gravity interfaces (characterized by a surface tension) and fluid membranes (controlled by a bending rigidity) in thermodynamic equilibrium in two dimensions. Building on work by Berry et al. we show that the statistics of specular points is fully characterized by three fundamental length scales, namely, a correlation length \(\xi \), a microscopic length scale \(\ell \) and the overall size \(L\) of the interface or membrane. By combining a scaling analysis with numerical simulations, we confirm the existence of a scaling law for the density of specular reflection points, \(n_{spec}\), in two dimensions, given by \(n_{spec}\propto \ell ^{-1}\) in the limit of thin fluctuating interfaces with the interfacial thickness \(\ell \ll \xi _I\). The density of specular reflections thus diverges for fluctuating interfaces in the limit of vanishing thickness and shows no dependance on the interfacial capillary-gravity correlation length \(\xi _I\). Although fluid membranes under tension also exhibit a divergence in \(n_{spec}\propto \left( \xi _M\ell \right) ^{-1/2}\), the number of specular reflections in this case can grow by decreasing the membrane correlation length \(\xi _{M}\).
MSC:
78A05 Geometric optics
82B24 Interface problems; diffusion-limited aggregation arising in equilibrium statistical mechanics
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