Volume 84, Number 2, October 2008
Article Number 26005
Number of page(s) 5
Section Condensed Matter: Structural, Mechanical and Thermal Properties
Published online 08 October 2008
EPL, 84 (2008) 26005
DOI: 10.1209/0295-5075/84/26005

Heterogeneity in structurally arrested hard spheres

Zi-Qi Li1, Zhao-Yan Sun1, Li-Jia An1 and Zhen-Gang Wang2

1   State Key Laboratory of Polymer Physics and Chemistry, Changchun Institute of Applied Chemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Graduate School of the Chinese Academy of Sciences - Changchun 130022, PRC
2   Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, California Institute of Technology - Pasadena, CA 91125, USA

received 17 July 2008; accepted in final form 9 September 2008; published October 2008
published online 8 October 2008

When cooled or compressed sufficiently rapidly, a liquid vitrifies into a glassy amorphous state. Vitrification in a dense liquid is associated with jamming of the particles. For hard spheres, the density and degree of order in the final structure depend on the compression rate: simple intuition suggests, and previous computer simulation demonstrates, that slower compression results in states that are both denser and more ordered. In this work, we use the Lubachevsky-Stillinger algorithm to generate a sequence of structurally arrested hard-sphere states by varying the compression rate. We find that while the degree of order, as measured by both bond-orientation and translation order parameters, increases monotonically with decreasing compression rate, the density of the arrested state first increases, then decreases, then increases again, as the compression rate decreases, showing a minimum at an intermediate compression rate. Examination of the distribution of the local order parameters and the distribution of the root-mean-square fluctuation of the particle positions, as well as direct visual inspection of the arrested structures, reveal that they are structurally heterogeneous, consisting of disordered, amorphous regions and locally ordered crystal-like domains. In particular, the low-density arrested states correspond with many interconnected small crystal clusters that form a polycrystalline network interspersed in an amorphous background, suggesting that jamming by the domains may be an important mechanism for these states.

61.43.-j - Disordered solids.
61.20.Ne - Structure of simple liquids.
64.70.Q- - Theory and modeling of the glass transition.

© EPLA 2008