Theory of first-order phase transitions
An introductory review of various concepts about first-order phase transitions is given. Rules for classification of phase transitions as second or first order are discussed, as well as exceptions to these rules. Attention is drawn to the rounding of first-order transitions due to finite-size or quenched impurities. Computational methods to calculate phase diagrams for simple model Hamiltonians are also described. Particular emphasis is laid on metastable states near first-order phase transitions, on the 'stability limits' of such states (e.g. the 'spinodal curve' of the gas-liquid transition) and on the dynamic mechanisms by which metastable states decay (nucleation and growth of droplets of a new phase, etc.).