*Accepted Paper*

**Inserted:** 6 nov 2018

**Last Updated:** 13 dec 2019

**Journal:** J. Math. Pures Appl.

**Year:** 2018

**Abstract:**

We study the optimization of the positive principal eigenvalue of an indefinite weighted problem, associated with the Neumann Laplacian in a box $\Omega\subset\mathbb{R}^N$, which arises in the investigation of the survival threshold in population dynamics. When trying to minimize such eigenvalue with respect to the weight, one is lead to consider a shape optimization problem, which is known to admit no spherical optimal shapes (despite some previously stated conjectures). We investigate whether spherical shapes can be recovered in some singular perturbation limit. More precisely we show that, whenever the negative part of the weight diverges, the above shape optimization problem approaches in the limit the so called spectral drop problem, which involves the minimization of the first eigenvalue of the mixed Dirichlet-Neumann Laplacian. We prove that, for suitable choices of the box $\Omega$, the optimal shapes for this second problem are indeed spherical; moreover, for general $\Omega$, we show that small volume spectral drops are asymptotically spherical, with center at points of $\partial\Omega$ having large mean curvature.

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