Nucleation is the first step in the formation of many materials; understanding its microscopic dynamics is crucial for improving synthesis of existing materials and predicting under what conditions novel materials will form. The simple picture of nucleation that prevailed for more than a century does not account for complex nucleation pathways observed in recent years in experiments and simulations. A more general framework is needed to explain reported phenomena; such a framework must account for the peaks and valleys in the free-energy landscape across which nucleation takes place and for the microscopic dynamic factors that dictate how a system explores this landscape. The articles of this issue illustrate and describe the many complex nucleation pathways seen across a range of material systems.
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