Cooperative strings and glassy interfaces
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We introduce a minimal theory of glass formation based on the ideas of molecular crowding and resultant string-like cooperative rearrangement, and address the effects of free interfaces. In the bulk case, we obtain a scaling expression for the number of particles taking part in cooperative strings, and we recover the Adam-Gibbs description of glassy dynamics. Then, by including thermal dilatation, the Vogel-Fulcher-Tammann relation is derived. Moreover, the random and string-like characters of the cooperative rearrangement allow us to predict a temperature-dependent expression for the cooperative length ξ of bulk relaxation. Finally, we explore the influence of sample boundaries when the system size becomes comparable to ξ. The theory is in agreement with measurements of the glass-transition temperature of thin polymer films, and allows quantification of the temperature-dependent thickness hm of the interfacial mobile layer.
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