Glass is a really weird solid. So weird that some people thought it might be a very viscous liquid. Its molecular structure is messy and chaotic, and the lack of regularity has made it difficult for scientists to work out its physical property. However, a new analysis has provided an answer to a 30-year debate.
Researchers from Duke University have put forward the possibility that a new phase of matter exists for glass and other amorphous solids at extremely low temperatures. They demonstrated this theoretically with 30 pages of algebraic calculations borrowed from particle physics.
Their results, published in Physical Review Letters, have used a clever trick. They analyzed glass as if it belonged to a universe with infinite dimensions because surprisingly the math was easier. The difficult bit was then tried to scale it down to our universe.
“The question is whether this model has any relevance to the real world,” co-author Professor Patrick Charbonneau said in a statement. “The gamble was that, as you change dimension, things change slowly enough that you can see how they morph as you go from an infinite number of dimensions to three.”
The key to this work has been proving the existence of a specific and special phase transition, called the Gardner Transition. It clearly existed in the infinite dimension model, but