Broadening of a Nonequilibrium Phase Transition by Extended Structural Defects
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We study the effects of quenched extended impurities on nonequilibrium phase transitions in the directed percolation universality class. We show that these impurities have a dramatic effect: they completely destroy the sharp phase transition by smearing. This is caused by rare strongly coupled spatial regions which can undergo the phase transition independently from the bulk system. We use extremal statistics to determine the stationary state as well as the dynamics in the tail of the smeared transition, and we illustrate the results by computer simulations.