Microscopic pathways for stress relaxation in repulsive colloidal glasses

Residual stresses are well-known companions of all glassy materials. They affect and, in many cases, even strongly modify important material properties like the mechanical response and the optical transparency. The mechanisms through which stresses affect such properties are, in many cases, still under study, and their full understanding can pave the way to a full exploitation of stress as a primary control parameter. It is, for example, known that stresses promote particle mobility at small length scales, e.g., in colloidal glasses, gels, and metallic glasses, but this connection still remains essentially qualitative. Exploiting a preparation protocol that leads to colloidal glasses with an exceptionally directional built-in stress field, we characterize the stress-induced dynamics and show that it can be visualized as a collection of flickering, mobile regions with linear sizes of the order of ≈20 particle diameters (≈2 μm here) that move cooperatively, displaying an overall stationary but locally ballistic dynamics.

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F. Dallari, A. Martinelli, F. Caporaletti, M. Sprung, G. Grübel, G. Monaco, Microscopic pathways for stress relaxation in repulsive colloidal glasses, Sci. Advances 6, eaaz2982 (2020). 10.1126/sciadv.aaz2982

photo credit: SDCSlab@UniTN