Journal article

Adaptive elastic networks as models of supercooled liquids

The thermodynamics and dynamics of supercooled liquids correlate with their elasticity. In particular for covalent networks, the jump of specific heat is small and the liquid is strong near the threshold valence where the network acquires rigidity. By contrast, the jump of specific heat and the fragility are large away from this threshold valence. In a previous work [Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 110, 6307 (2013)], we could explain these behaviors by introducing a model of supercooled liquids in which local rearrangements interact via elasticity. However, in that model the disorder characterizing elasticity was frozen, whereas it is itself a dynamic variable in supercooled liquids. Here we study numerically and theoretically adaptive elastic network models where polydisperse springs can move on a lattice, thus allowing for the geometry of the elastic network to fluctuate and evolve with temperature. We show numerically that our previous results on the relationship between structure and thermodynamics hold in these models. We introduce an approximation where redundant constraints (highly coordinated regions where the frustration is large) are treated as an ideal gas, leading to analytical predictions that are accurate in the range of parameters relevant for real materials. Overall, these results lead to a description of supercooled liquids, in which the distance to the rigidity transition controls the number of directions in phase space that cost energy and the specific heat.


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