The Physics of Glasses: Relating Metallic Glasses to Molecular, Polymeric and Oxide Glasses

Coordinators: Takeshi Egami, Michael L. Falk, Srikanth Sastry

While theoretical puzzles regarding the origin of the glass transition remain grand challenges for statistical and condensed matter physics, interest in glasses has expanded.  This has resulted in a flowering of investigations regarding the origin of aging, fragility and dynamic heterogeneity, the prediction of glass formability and the response of glasses to mechanical stress and induced flow.  A number of recent developments make this an exciting time for understanding the physics of glasses.  New computational methodologies and increased computing power have made it possible to test the fundamental assumptions of well-developed theories.  New experimental techniques have been developed for characterizing the structure of glasses.

Glasses find applications in a wide variety of contexts, and materials engineering of glasses continues to bring issues of fundamental importance to the fore.  Significant advances in metallic glass alloy development have moved these materials to the threshold of application and serve as a recent case-in-point. This program will provide a mechanism for the theoretical physics community to engage actively with materials researchers working on a number of materials systems including molecular, polymeric and oxide glasses, incorporating a specific focus on metallic glasses. Interpretation of a new wealth of experimental data and finding ways to address relevant practical concerns will provide an impetus to focus discussion during the program.

The program will focus specifically on key questions that represent fundamental physical issues critical for glasses in general.  These questions include:

  • What are the universal aspects of glass formation?  What accounts for these universal aspects?
  • How does structure connect to dynamics as they give rise to dynamical heterogeneity, fragility, jamming, aging and rejuvenation?
  • What determines glass formability and suppresses crystal nucleation in multi-component systems?
  • How does glass respond to the application of mechanical stresses both at and far below the glass transition?

Associated with this program, there will be a conference from June 21-25, 2010.  Further information about it will be posted online when it becomes available.