Critical scaling of icosahedral medium-range order in CuZr metallic glass-forming liquids

ZW Wu and FX Li and CW Huo and MZ Li and WH Wang and KX Liu, SCIENTIFIC REPORTS, 6, 35967 (2016).

DOI: 10.1038/srep35967

The temperature evolution of icosahedral medium-range order formed by interpenetrating icosahedra in CuZr metallic glassforming liquids was investigated via molecular dynamics simulations. Scaling analysis based on percolation theory was employed, and it is found that the size distribution of clusters formed by the central atoms of icosahedra at various temperatures follows a very good scaling law with the cluster number density scaled by S-tau and the cluster size S scaled by |1 - T-c/T|(-1/sigma), respectively. Here T-c is scaling crossover- temperature. tau and sigma are scaling exponents. The critical scaling behaviour suggests that there would be a structural phase transition manifested by percolation of locally favoured structures underlying the glass transition, if the liquid could be cooled slowly enough but without crystallization intervening. Furthermore, it is revealed that when icosahedral short-range order (ISRO) extends to medium-range length scale by connection, the atomic configurations of ISROs will be optimized from distorted ones towards more regular ones gradually, which significantly lowers the energies of ISROs and introduces geometric frustration simultaneously. Both factors make key impacts on the drastic dynamic slow-down of supercooled liquids. Our findings provide direct structure-property relationship for understanding the nature of glass transition.

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