The microscopic origins of stretched exponential relaxation in two model glass-forming liquids as probed by simulations in the isoconfigurational ensemble

DD Vela and DS Simmons, JOURNAL OF CHEMICAL PHYSICS, 153, 234503 (2020).

DOI: 10.1063/5.0035609

The origin of stretched exponential relaxation in supercooled glass- forming liquids is one of the central questions regarding the anomalous dynamics of these fluids. The dominant explanation for this phenomenon has long been the proposition that spatial averaging over a heterogeneous distribution of locally exponential relaxation processes leads to stretching. Here, we perform simulations of model polymeric and small-molecule glass-formers in the isoconfigurational ensemble to show that stretching instead emerges from a combination of spatial averaging and locally nonexponential relaxation. The results indicate that localities in the fluid exhibiting faster-than-average relaxation tend to exhibit locally stretched relaxation, whereas slower-than-average relaxing domains exhibit more compressed relaxation. We show that local stretching is predicted by loose local caging, as measured by the Debye- Waller factor, and vice versa. This phenomenology in the local relaxation of in-equilibrium glasses parallels the dynamics of out of equilibrium under-dense and over-dense glasses, which likewise exhibit an asymmetry in their degree of stretching vs compression. On the basis of these results, we hypothesize that local stretching and compression in equilibrium glass-forming liquids results from evolution of particle mobilities over a single local relaxation time, with slower particles tending toward acceleration and vice versa. In addition to providing new insight into the origins of stretched relaxation, these results have implications for the interpretation of stretching exponents as measured via metrologies such as dielectric spectroscopy: measured stretching exponents cannot universally be interpreted as a direct measure of the breadth of an underlying distribution of relaxation times.

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