Physicists have observed a new state of matter called ‘liquid glass’

Physicists have identified a new state of matter, hidden within the mysterious changes that occur between the liquid and solid states of glass.

The glass transition holds great fascination for scientists, and the new state of matter – called ‘liquid glass’ – exhibits behavior on a microscopic level that has not been seen before, marking it as distinct from what has been observed before. Happened.

This new state seems to exist between a solid and a colloid (such as a gel): homogeneous mixtures with particles that are microscopic but still larger than atoms and molecules, and are easier to study. In this case, small, tailor-made plastic ellipsoid colloids were made and mixed together in a solvent.

“This is incredibly interesting from a theoretical vantage point,” says Matthias Fuchs, a professor of soft condensed matter theory at the University of Konstonz in Germany.

“Our experiments provide such evidence for the interaction between significant fluctuations and glassy arrests that the scientific community has for a long time.”

When substances change from liquids to solids, their molecules usually line up to form a crystalline pattern. This is not the case with glass, which is why scientists are eager to analyze and disintegrate it: With glass (and glass-like materials), molecules are locked or frozen in a disordered state.

In liquid glass, scientists observed that colloids were able to move, but could not rotate – they had more flexibility than molecules in glass, but not enough to compare them with regular materials that were already Have studied extensively.

These closed curves can be observed, using the ellipse colloid instead of the standard spherical shape. The particles are clumped together in groups with equal inclination, which then disrupt each other inside the material.

Ellipsoidal particles in clumps in liquid glass. (The research group of Professor Andreas Zumbusch and Professor Matthias Fuchs)

“Our particles have an orientation due to their different shapes – as opposed to spherical particles – which Andreas Zumbusch, professor of physical chemistry at the University of Complex, explains,” a completely new and previously unplanned type of complex behaviors. gives rise to.

Researchers say the new state of matter is actually two competing liquid-to-solid transitions, forming mixtures of different properties. The shape and concentration of particles seem to be important in making this liquid glass.

With the transition to glass, there remain a lot of unanswered questions, but study authors are hoping that the discovery of liquid glass – which scientists have been predicting for twenty years – may help improve our understanding of glass. Scales of how glass transitions work in the smallest part.

The findings have the potential to go beyond glass, as well as highlight everything from the smallest biological cell to the largest cosmological system – any scenario where there is unexplained disorder.

“Our results give insight into the interaction between local structures and phase shifts,” the researchers write in their paper.

“It helps direct applications such as self-assembly of colloidal superstructures and also evidences the importance of shape on the glass transition in general.”

The research has been published in PNAS.


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