Harvard materials scientists have come up with what they believe is a new way to model the formation of glasses, a type of amorphous solid that includes common window glass.
Glasses form through the process of vitrification, in which a glass-forming liquid cools and slowly becomes a solid whose molecules, though they've stopped moving, are not permanently locked into a crystal structure. Instead, they're more like a liquid that has merely stopped flowing, though they can continue to move over long stretches of time.
"A glass is permanent, but only over a certain time scale. It's a liquid that just stopped moving, stopped flowing," said David Weitz, Mallinckrodt Professor of Physics and Applied Physics at Harvard's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and the Department of Physics. "A crystal has a very unique structure, a very ordered structure that repeats itself over and over. A glass never repeats itself. It wants to be a crystal but something is preventing it from being a crystal."
Other than window glass, made from silica or silicon dioxide, Weitz said many sugars are glasses. Honey, for example, is not a glass at room temperature, but as it cools down and solidifies, it becomes a glass.
Scientists like Weitz use models to understand the properties of glasses. Weitz and members of his research group, together with colleagues at Columbia University and the University of North Texas, report in this week's Nature a new wrinkle on an old model that seems to improve how well it mimics the behavior of glass.
The model is a colloidial fluid, a liquid with tiny particles, or colloids, suspended evenly in it. Milk, for example, is a familiar colloidial fluid. Scientists model solidifying glasses using colloids by adding more particles to the fluid. This increases the particles' concentration, making the fluid thicker, and making it flow more slowly. The advantage of this approach to studying glasses directly is size, Weitz said. The colloid particles are 1,000 times bigger than a molecule of a glass and can be observed with a microscope.
"They're big; they're slow. They get slower and slower and slower and slower," Weitz said. "They don't behave like a fluid. They don't behave like a crystal. They behave in many ways like a glass."
The problem with traditional colloids used in these models, however, is that they often rapidly solidify past a certain point, unlike most glasses, which continue to flow ever more slowly as they gradually solidify. Weitz and colleagues created a colloid that behaves more like a glass in that way by using soft, compressible particles in the colloid instead of hard ones. This makes the particles squeeze together as more particles are added, making them flow more slowly, but delaying the point at which it solidifies, giving it a more glasslike behavior.
By varying the colloidal particles' stiffness, researchers can vary the colloidal behavior and improve the model's faithfulness to various glasses.
"There's this wealth of behavior in molecular glass and we never saw this wealth of behavior in colloid particles," Weitz said. "The fact you can visualize things gives you tremendous insight you can't get with molecular glass."
Weitz's co-authors are Johan Mattsson, Hans M. Wyss, and Alberto Fernandez-Nieves of Harvard's Department of Physics and School of Engineering and Applied Sciences; Kunimasa Miyazaki and David R. Reichman of Columbia University; and Zhibing Hu of the University of North Texas. Their work was funded by the National Science Foundation, Harvard's Materials Research Science and Engineering Center, the Hans Werthén Foundation, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation and the Royal Society of Arts and Sciences in Göteborg, the Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación and the University of Almeria, and KAKENHI.
Steve Bradt | EurekAlert!
Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously
17.01.2017 | Sonderforschungsbereich 668
Manchester scientists tie the tightest knot ever achieved
13.01.2017 | University of Manchester
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).
Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...
Many pathogens use certain sugar compounds from their host to help conceal themselves against the immune system. Scientists at the University of Bonn have now, in cooperation with researchers at the University of York in the United Kingdom, analyzed the dynamics of a bacterial molecule that is involved in this process. They demonstrate that the protein grabs onto the sugar molecule with a Pac Man-like chewing motion and holds it until it can be used. Their results could help design therapeutics that could make the protein poorer at grabbing and holding and hence compromise the pathogen in the host. The study has now been published in “Biophysical Journal”.
The cells of the mouth, nose and intestinal mucosa produce large quantities of a chemical called sialic acid. Many bacteria possess a special transport system...
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
05.01.2017 | Event News
17.01.2017 | Earth Sciences
17.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
17.01.2017 | Architecture and Construction