J. E. Sprittles, J. Liu, D. A. Lockerby, and T. Grafke, Phys. Rev. Fluids 8 (2023), L092001
Sufficiently thin liquid films on solid surfaces are often unstable to intermolecular forces and it is commonly assumed that their rupture occurs via a linear instability mechanism in the so-called spinodal regime. Here, a theoretical framework is created for the experimentally observed thermal regime, in which fluctuation-induced nanowaves rupture linearly stable films. Molecular simulations in a quasi-2D geometry identify these regimes and are accurately reproduced by stochastic simulations based on fluctuating hydrodynamics. Rare-event theory is then applied to, and developed for, this field to provide exceptional computational efficiency and accuracy that allows us to extend calculations deep into the thermal regime. Analysis of the rare-event theory reveals a picture of how and when “rogue nanowaves” are able to provide a route to film rupture. Finally, future applications of the new theoretical framework and experimental verification is discussed.