(ORDO NEWS) — Physicists have identified a new state of matter, hidden behind the mysterious transformations that occur between the liquid and solid states of glass.
The new state of matter, called “liquid glass”, exhibits behavior at a microscopic level that has not been seen before, making it separate from previously observed phenomena.
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 easier to study. In this case, tiny plastic ellipsoidal colloids were created that were mixed together in a solvent.
“It’s incredibly interesting from a theoretical point of view,” says Matthias Fuchs, professor of soft condensed matter theory at the University of Konstanz in Germany.
“Our experiments provide some kind of evidence for the interaction between critical fluctuations and frozen light, which the scientific community has been striving for for quite some time.”
When materials change from liquids to solids, their molecules usually line up to form a crystal pattern. Not so with glass, which is why scientists are so eager to analyze and disassemble it: with glass (and glass-like materials), the molecules are frozen in a disordered state.
In liquid glass, scientists noticed that colloids can move, but cannot rotate – they have more flexibility than molecules in glass, but not enough to make them comparable to conventional materials that have already been carefully studied. The particles were collected in groups with the same orientation, which then interfered with each other within the material.
“Because of their different shapes, our particles have orientations – as opposed to spherical particles – which give rise to completely new and previously unexplored complex behaviors,” explains Andreas Zumbusch, professor of physical chemistry at the University of Constanta.
The researchers say the new state of matter is actually two competing transitions from liquid to solid that interact to create a mixture of different properties. Particle shape and concentration seem to be decisive in creating this liquid glass.
“Our results provide insight into the interaction between local structures and phase transformations,” the researchers write in their paper.
“This helps guide applications such as self-assembly of colloidal superstructures, and also demonstrates the importance of shape for glass transition in general.”
Contact us: [email protected]