We theoretically study thermally activated "in cage"elementary dynamical processes that precede full structural relaxation in ultradense particle liquids interacting via strong short-range attractive forces. The analysis is based on a microscopic theory formulated at the particle trajectory level built on the dynamic free energy concept and an explicit treatment of how attractive forces control the formation and lifetime of physical bonds. Mean time scales for bond breaking, the early stage of cage escape, and non-Fickian displacement by a fixed amount are analyzed in the repulsive glass, bonded repulsive (attractive) glass, fluid, and dense gel regimes. The theory predicts a strong length-scale-dependent growth of these time scales with attractive force strength at fixed packing fraction, a much weaker slowing down with density at fixed attraction strength, and a strong decoupling of the shorter bond-breaking time with the other two time scales that are controlled mainly by perturbed steric caging. All results are in good accord with simulations, and additional testable predictions are made. The classic statistical mechanical projection approximation of replacing all bare attractive and repulsive forces with a single effective force determined by pair structure incurs major errors for describing processes associated with thermally activated escape from transiently localized states.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Statistical and Nonlinear Physics
- Statistics and Probability
- Condensed Matter Physics