In thermodynamics, the limit of local stability with respect to small fluctuations is clearly defined by the condition that the second derivative of Gibbs free energy is zero. The locus of these points (the inflection point within a G-x or G-c curve, Gibbs free energy as a function of composition) is known as the spinodal curve. For compositions within this curve, infinitesimally small fluctuations in composition and density will lead to phase separation via spinodal decomposition. Outside of the curve, the solution will be at least metastable with respect to fluctuations. In other words, outside the spinodal curve some careful process may obtain a single phase system. Inside it, only processes far from thermodynamic equilibrium, such as physical vapor deposition, will enable one to prepare single phase compositions. The local points of coexisting compositions, defined by the common tangent construction, are known as binodal (coexistence) curve, which denotes the minimum-energy equilibrium state of the system. Increasing temperature results in a decreasing difference between mixing entropy and mixing enthalpy, thus, the coexisting compositions come closer. The binodal curve forms the bases for the miscibility gap in a phase diagram. Since the free energy of mixture changes with temperature and concentration, the binodal and spinodal meet at the critical or consulate temperature and composition.
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- Koningsveld K., Stockmayer W. H.,Nies, E., Polymer Phase Diagrams: A Textbook. 2001 Oxford, pp 46-47.