The relationship of dynamical heterogeneity to the Adam-Gibbs and random first-order transition theories of glass formation

J Chem Phys. 2013 Mar 28;138(12):12A541. doi: 10.1063/1.4790138.

Abstract

We carefully examine common measures of dynamical heterogeneity for a model polymer melt and test how these scales compare with those hypothesized by the Adam and Gibbs (AG) and random first-order transition (RFOT) theories of relaxation in glass-forming liquids. To this end, we first analyze clusters of highly mobile particles, the string-like collective motion of these mobile particles, and clusters of relative low mobility. We show that the time scale of the high-mobility clusters and strings is associated with a diffusive time scale, while the low-mobility particles' time scale relates to a structural relaxation time. The difference of the characteristic times for the high- and low-mobility particles naturally explains the well-known decoupling of diffusion and structural relaxation time scales. Despite the inherent difference of dynamics between high- and low-mobility particles, we find a high degree of similarity in the geometrical structure of these particle clusters. In particular, we show that the fractal dimensions of these clusters are consistent with those of swollen branched polymers or branched polymers with screened excluded-volume interactions, corresponding to lattice animals and percolation clusters, respectively. In contrast, the fractal dimension of the strings crosses over from that of self-avoiding walks for small strings, to simple random walks for longer, more strongly interacting, strings, corresponding to flexible polymers with screened excluded-volume interactions. We examine the appropriateness of identifying the size scales of either mobile particle clusters or strings with the size of cooperatively rearranging regions (CRR) in the AG and RFOT theories. We find that the string size appears to be the most consistent measure of CRR for both the AG and RFOT models. Identifying strings or clusters with the "mosaic" length of the RFOT model relaxes the conventional assumption that the "entropic droplets" are compact. We also confirm the validity of the entropy formulation of the AG theory, constraining the exponent values of the RFOT theory. This constraint, together with the analysis of size scales, enables us to estimate the characteristic exponents of RFOT.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Glass / chemistry
  • Molecular Dynamics Simulation*
  • Phase Transition
  • Polymers / chemistry

Substances

  • Polymers