Imaging Atomic Rearrangements in Two-Dimensional Silica Glass: Watching Silica's Dance

PY Huang and S Kurasch and JS Alden and A Shekhawat and AA Alemi and PL McEuen and JP Sethna and U Kaiser and DA Muller, SCIENCE, 342, 224-227 (2013).

DOI: 10.1126/science.1242248

Structural rearrangements control a wide range of behavior in amorphous materials, and visualizing these atomic-scale rearrangements is critical for developing and refining models for how glasses bend, break, and melt. It is difficult, however, to directly image atomic motion in disordered solids. We demonstrate that using aberration-corrected transmission electron microscopy, we can excite and image atomic rearrangements in a two-dimensional silica glass-revealing a complex dance of elastic and plastic deformations, phase transitions, and their interplay. We identified the strain associated with individual ring rearrangements, observed the role of vacancies in shear deformation, and quantified fluctuations at a glass/liquid interface. These examples illustrate the wide-ranging and fundamental materials physics that can now be studied at atomic-resolution via transmission electron microscopy of two-dimensional glasses.

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