Anomalous properties of the acoustic excitations in glasses on the mesoscopic length scale
G Monaco and S Mossa, PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, 106, 16907-16912 (2009).
The low-temperature thermal properties of dielectric crystals are governed by acoustic excitations with large wavelengths that are well described by plane waves. This is the Debye model, which rests on the assumption that the medium is an elastic continuum, holds true for acoustic wavelengths large on the microscopic scale fixed by the interatomic spacing, and gradually breaks down on approaching it. Glasses are characterized as well by universal low-temperature thermal properties that are, however, anomalous with respect to those of the corresponding crystalline phases. Related universal anomalies also appear in the low-frequency vibrational density of states and, despite a longstanding debate, remain poorly understood. By using molecular dynamics simulations of a model monatomic glass of extremely large size, we show that in glasses the structural disorder undermines the Debye model in a subtle way: The elastic continuum approximation for the acoustic excitations breaks down abruptly on the mesoscopic, medium- range-order length scale of approximate to 10 interatomic spacings, where it still works well for the corresponding crystalline systems. On this scale, the sound velocity shows a marked reduction with respect to the macroscopic value. This reduction turns out to be closely related to the universal excess over the Debye model prediction found in glasses at frequencies of approximate to 1 THz in the vibrational density of states or at temperatures of approximate to 10 K in the specific heat.
Return to Publications page