The old problems of glass and the glass transition, and the many new twists

Charles Angell

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152 Scopus citations


In this paper I review the ways in which the glassy state is obtained both in nature and in materials science and highlight a 'new twist'-the recent recognition of polymorphism within the glassy state. The formation of glass by continuous cooling (viscous slowdown) is then examined, the strong/fragile liquids classification is reviewed, and a new twist-the possibility that the slowdown is a result of an avoided critical point-is noted. The three canonical characteristics of relaxing liquids are correlated through the fragility. As a further new twist, the conversion of strong liquids to fragile liquids by pressure-induced coordination number increases is demonstrated. It is then shown that, for comparable systems, it is possible to have the same conversion accomplished via a first-order transition within the liquid state during quenching. This occurs in the systems in which 'polyamorphism' (polymorphism in the glassy state) is observed, and the whole phenomenology is accounted for by Poole's bond-modified van der Waals model. The sudden loss of some liquid degrees of freedom through such weak first- order transitions is then related to the polyamorphic transition between native and denatured hydrated proteins, since the latter are also glass- forming systems-water-plasticized, hydrogen bond-cross-linked chain polymers (and single molecule glass formers). The circle is closed with a final new twist by noting that a short time scale phenomenon much studied by protein physicists-namely, the onset of a sharp change in d<r2>/dT (<r2> is the Debye-Waller factor)-is general for glass-forming liquids, including computer-simulated strong and fragile ionic liquids, and is closely correlated with the experimental glass transition temperature. The latter thus originates in strong anharmonicity in certain components of the vibrational density of states, which permits the system to access the multiple minima of its configuration space. The connection between the anharmonicity in these modes, vibrational localization, the Kauzmann temperature, and the fragility of the liquid is proposed as the key problem in glass science.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6675-6682
Number of pages8
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number15
StatePublished - Jul 18 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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