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Vapor Condensed and Supercooled Glassy Nanoclusters

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journal contribution
posted on 11.02.2016 by Weikai Qi, Richard K. Bowles
We use molecular simulation to study the structural and dynamic properties of glassy nanoclusters formed both through the direct condensation of the vapor below the glass transition temperature, without the presence of a substrate, and via the slow supercooling of unsupported liquid nanodroplets. An analysis of local structure using Voronoi polyhedra shows that the energetic stability of the clusters is characterized by a large, increasing fraction of bicapped square antiprism motifs. We also show that nanoclusters with similar inherent structure energies are structurally similar, independent of their history, which suggests the supercooled clusters access the same low energy regions of the potential energy landscape as the vapor condensed clusters despite their different methods of formation. By measuring the intermediate scattering function at different radii from the cluster center, we find that the relaxation dynamics of the clusters are inhomogeneous, with the core becoming glassy above the glass transition temperature while the surface remains mobile at low temperatures. This helps the clusters sample the highly stable, low energy structures on the potential energy surface. Our work suggests the nanocluster systems are structurally more stable than the ultrastable glassy thin films, formed through vapor deposition onto a cold substrate, but the nanoclusters do not exhibit the superheating effects characteristic of the ultrastable glass states.