The stiffness of a system with respect to a deformation (e.g., the stiffness of a spring with respect to stretching) is the second derivative of the energy with respect to the corresponding displacement; this measures the curvature of the potential energy surface along a particular direction. Positive stiffness is associated with stability, and a large stiffness can result in a small positional uncertainty in the presence of thermal excitation. Negative stiffnesses correspond to unstable locations on the potential energy surface. Alternative terms for stiffness include force gradient and rigidity.



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Effective mass



Exchange stiffness



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