Theory of the spatial transfer of interface-nucleated changes of dynamical constraints and its consequences in glass-forming films

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We formulate a new theory for how caging constraints in glass-forming liquids at a surface or interface are modified and then spatially transferred, in a layer-by-layer bootstrapped manner, into the film interior in the context of the dynamic free energy concept of the Nonlinear Langevin Equation (NLE) theory approach. The dynamic free energy at any mean location (cage center) involves contributions from two adjacent layers where confining forces are not the same. At the most fundamental level of the theory, the caging component of the dynamic free energy varies essentially exponentially with distance from the interface, saturating deep enough into the film with a correlation length of modest size and weak sensitivity to the thermodynamic state. This imparts a roughly exponential spatial variation of all the key features of the dynamic free energy required to compute gradients of dynamical quantities including the localization length, jump distance, cage barrier, collective elastic barrier, and alpha relaxation time. The spatial gradients are entirely of dynamical, not structural or thermodynamic, origin. The theory is implemented for the hard sphere fluid and diverse interfaces which can be a vapor, a rough pinned particle solid, a vibrating (softened) pinned particle solid, or a smooth hard wall. Their basic description at the level of the spatially heterogeneous dynamic free energy is identical, with the crucial difference arising from the first layer where dynamical constraints can be weakened, softened, or hardly changed depending on the specific interface. Numerical calculations establish the spatial dependence and fluid volume fraction sensitivity of the key dynamical property gradients for five different model interfaces. A comparison of the theoretical predictions for the dynamic localization length and glassy modulus with simulations and experiments for systems with a vapor interface reveals good agreement. The present advance sets the stage for using the Elastically Collective NLE theory to make quantitative predictions for the alpha relaxation time gradient, decoupling phenomena, T g gradient, and many film-averaged properties of both model and experimental (colloids, molecules, and polymers) systems with diverse interfaces and chemical makeup.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number044508
JournalJournal of Chemical Physics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 28 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physics and Astronomy(all)
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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