Froth-like minimizers of a non local free energy functional with competing interactions

FM 5-12, arxiv:1206.3846

Authors P. Buttà, R. Esposito, A. Giuliani, R. Marra

Abstract: We investigate the ground and low energy states of a one dimensional non local free energy functional describing at a mean field level a spin system with both ferromagnetic and antiferromagnetic interactions. In particular, the antiferromagnetic interaction is assumed to have a range much larger than the ferromagnetic one. The competition between these two effects is expected to lead to the spontaneous emergence of a regular alternation of long intervals on which the spin profile is magnetized either up or down, with an oscillation scale intermediate between the range of the ferromagnetic and that of the antiferromagnetic interaction. In this sense, the optimal or quasi-optimal profiles are "froth-like": if seen on the scale of the antiferromagnetic potential they look neutral, but if seen at the microscope they actually consist of big bubbles of two different phases alternating among each other. In this paper we prove the validity of this picture, we compute the oscillation scale of the quasi-optimal profiles and we quantify their distance in norm from a reference periodic profile. The proof consists of two main steps: we first coarse grain the system on a scale intermediate between the range of the ferromagnetic potential and the expected optimal oscillation scale; in this way we reduce the original functional to an effective "sharp interface" one. Next, we study the latter by reflection positivity methods, which require as a key ingredient the exact locality of the short range term. Our proof has the conceptual interest of combining coarse graining with reflection positivity methods, an idea that is presumably useful in much more general contexts than the one studied here.