Does mesoscopic elasticity control viscous slowing down in glassforming liquids?
G Kapteijns and D Richard and E Bouchbinder and TB Schroder and JC Dyre and E Lerner, JOURNAL OF CHEMICAL PHYSICS, 155, 074502 (2021).
The dramatic slowing down of relaxation dynamics of liquids approaching the glass transition remains a highly debated problem, where the crux of the puzzle resides in the elusive increase in the activation barrier Delta E(T) with decreasing temperature T. A class of theoretical frameworks-known as elastic models-attribute this temperature dependence to the variations of the liquid's macroscopic elasticity, quantified by the high-frequency shear modulus G(infinity)(T). While elastic models find some support in a number of experimental studies, these models do not take into account the spatial structures, length scales, and heterogeneity associated with structural relaxation in supercooled liquids. Here, we propose and test the possibility that viscous slowing down is controlled by a mesoscopic elastic stiffness kappa(T), defined as the characteristic stiffness of response fields to local dipole forces in the liquid's underlying inherent structures. First, we show that kappa(T)-which is intimately related to the energy and length scales characterizing quasilocalized, nonphononic excitations in glasses-increases more strongly with decreasing T than the macroscopic inherent structure shear modulus G(T) the glass counterpart of liquids' G(infinity)(T) in several computer liquids. Second, we show that the simple relation Delta E(T) proportional to kappa(T) holds remarkably well for some computer liquids, suggesting a direct connection between the liquid's underlying mesoscopic elasticity and enthalpic energy barriers. On the other hand, we show that for other computer liquids, the above relation fails. Finally, we provide strong evidence that what distinguishes computer liquids in which the Delta E(T) proportional to kappa(T) relation holds from those in which it does not is that the latter feature highly fragmented/granular potential energy landscapes, where many sub-basins separated by low activation barriers exist. Under such conditions, it appears that the sub-basins do not properly represent the landscape properties relevant for structural relaxation.
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