Fractal free energy landscapes in structural glasses

Patrick Charbonneau 1, 2 Jorge Kurchan 3 Giorgio Parisi 4, 5 Pierfrancesco Urbani 6, 7 Francesco Zamponi 2

Nature Communications, Nature Publishing Group, 2014, 5, pp.3725. 〈10.1038/ncomms4725〉

Glasses are amorphous solids whose constituent particles are caged by their neighbors and thus cannot flow. This sluggishness is often ascribed to the free energy landscape containing multiple minima (basins) separated by high barriers. Here we show, using theory and numerical simulation, that the landscape is much rougher than is classically assumed. Deep in the glass, it undergoes a "roughness transition" to fractal basins. This brings about isostaticity at jamming and marginality of glassy states near jamming. Critical exponents for the basin width, the weak force distribution, and the spatial spread of quasi-contacts at jamming can be analytically determined. Their value is found to be compatible with numerical observations. This advance therefore incorporates the jamming transition of granular materials into the framework of glass theory. Because temperature and pressure control which features of the landscape are experienced, glass mechanics and transport are expected to reflect the features of the topology we discuss here. Hitherto mysterious properties of low-temperature glasses could be explained by this approach.

  • 1. Duke university [Durham]
  • 2. LPTENS - Laboratoire de Physique Théorique de l'ENS
  • 3. LPS - Laboratoire de Physique Statistique de l'ENS
  • 4. SMC/INFM - Department of Physics, Sapienza University of Rome
  • 5. INFN - Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare [Sezione di Roma 1]
  • 6. LPTMS - Laboratoire de Physique Théorique et Modèles Statistiques
  • 7. IPHT - Institut de Physique Théorique - UMR CNRS 3681