Communication: Slow relaxation, spatial mobility gradients, and vitrification in confined films

Stephen Mirigian, Kenneth S. Schweizer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Two decades of experimental research indicate that spatial confinement of glass-forming molecular and polymeric liquids results in major changes of their slow dynamics beginning at large confinement distances. A fundamental understanding remains elusive given the generic complexity of activated relaxation in supercooled liquids and the major complications of geometric confinement, interfacial effects, and spatial inhomogeneity. We construct a predictive, quantitative, force-level theory of relaxation in free-standing films for the central question of the nature of the spatial mobility gradient. The key new idea is that vapor interfaces speed up barrier hopping in two distinct, but coupled, ways by reducing near surface local caging constraints and spatially long range collective elastic distortion. Effective vitrification temperatures, dynamic length scales, and mobile layer thicknesses naturally follow. Our results provide a unified basis for central observations of dynamic and pseudo-thermodynamic measurements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number161103
JournalJournal of Chemical Physics
Issue number16
StatePublished - Oct 28 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Physics and Astronomy
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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