Mean-Field Description of Plastic Flow in Amorphous Solids
Failure and flow of amorphous materials are central to various phenomena including earthquakes and landslides. There is accumulating evidence that the yielding transition between a flowing and an arrested phase is a critical phenomenon, but the associated exponents are not understood, even at a mean-field level where the validity of popular models is debated. Here, we solve a mean-field model that captures the broad distribution of the mechanical noise generated by plasticity, whose behavior is related to biased Levy flights near an absorbing boundary. We compute the exponent theta characterizing the density of shear transformation P(x) similar to x(theta), where x is the stress increment beyond which they yield. We find that after an isotropic thermal quench, theta = 1/2. However, theta depends continuously on the applied shear stress; this dependence is not monotonic, and its value at the yield stress is not universal. The model rationalizes previously unexplained observations and captures reasonably well the value of exponents in three dimensions. Values of exponents in four dimensions are accurately predicted. These results support the fact that it is the true mean-field model that applies in large dimensions, and they raise fundamental questions about the nature of the yielding transition.