Landau theory (LT) is an indispensable cornerstone in the thermodynamic description of phase transitions. As with structural transitions, most applications require one to consistently take into account the role of strain. If temperature drives the transition, the relevant strains are, as a rule, small enough to be treated as infinitesimal, and therefore one can get away with linearized elasticity theory. However, for transitions driven by high pressure, strains may become so large that it is absolutely mandatory to treat them as finite and deal with the nonlinear nature of the accompanying elastic energy. In this paper, we explain how to set up and apply what is, in fact, the only possible consistent Landau theory of high-pressure phase transitions that systematically allows us to take these geometrical and physical nonlinearities into account. We also show how to incorporate available information on the pressure dependence of elastic constants taken from experiment or simulation. We apply our new theory to the example of the high-pressure cubic-tetragonal phase transition in strontium titanate, a model perovskite that has played a central role in the development of the theory of structural phase transitions. Armed with pressure-dependent elastic constants calculated by density-functional theory, we give an accurate description of recent high-precision experimental data and predict a number of elastic transition anomalies accessible to experiments.
Editorial on the breakthrough: