We have constructed a quantitative, force level, statistical mechanical theory for how confinement in free standing thin films introduces a spatial mobility gradient of the alpha relaxation time as a function of temperature, film thickness, and location in the film. The crucial idea is that relaxation speeds up due to the reduction of both near-surface barriers associated with the loss of neighbors in the local cage and the spatial cutoff and dynamical softening near the vapor interface of the spatially longer range collective elasticity cost for large amplitude hopping. These two effects are fundamentally coupled. Quantitative predictions are made for how an apparent glass temperature depends on the film thickness and experimental probe technique, the emergence of a two-step decay and mobile layers in time domain measurements, signatures of confinement in frequency-domain dielectric loss experiments, the dependence of film-averaged relaxation times and dynamic fragility on temperature and film thickness, surface diffusion, and the relationship between kinetic experiments and pseudo-thermodynamic measurements such as ellipsometry.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Physics and Astronomy(all)
- Physical and Theoretical Chemistry