Effect of the nature of the solid substrate on spatially heterogeneous activated dynamics in glass forming supported films

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We extend the force-level elastically collective nonlinear Langevin equation theory to treat the spatial gradients of the alpha relaxation time and glass transition temperature, and the corresponding film-averaged quantities, to the geometrically asymmetric case of finite thickness supported films with variable fluid-substrate coupling. The latter typically nonuniversally slows down motion near the solid-liquid interface as modeled via modification of the surface dynamic free energy caging constraints that are spatially transferred into the film and which compete with the accelerated relaxation gradient induced by the vapor interface. Quantitative applications to the foundational hard sphere fluid and a polymer melt are presented. The strength of the effective fluid-substrate coupling has very large consequences for the dynamical gradients and film-averaged quantities in a film thickness and thermodynamic state dependent manner. The interference of the dynamical gradients of opposite nature emanating from the vapor and solid interfaces is determined, including the conditions for the disappearance of a bulk-like region in the film center. The relative importance of surface-induced modification of local caging vs the generic truncation of the long range collective elastic component of the activation barrier is studied. The conditions for the accuracy and failure of a simple superposition approximation for dynamical gradients in thin films are also determined. The emergence of near substrate dead layers, large gradient effects on film-averaged response functions, and a weak non-monotonic evolution of dynamic gradients in thick and cold films are briefly discussed. The connection of our theoretical results to simulations and experiments is briefly discussed, as is the extension to treat more complex glass-forming systems under nanoconfinement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number074902
JournalJournal of Chemical Physics
Issue number7
StatePublished - Feb 21 2024

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Physics and Astronomy
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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