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Science. 2005 Apr 15;308(5720):392-5.

Atomic-scale visualization of inertial dynamics.

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  • 1Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory/Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC), Menlo Park, CA 94025, USA.

Erratum in

  • Science. 2005 Jun 24;308(5730):1870.


The motion of atoms on interatomic potential energy surfaces is fundamental to the dynamics of liquids and solids. An accelerator-based source of femtosecond x-ray pulses allowed us to follow directly atomic displacements on an optically modified energy landscape, leading eventually to the transition from crystalline solid to disordered liquid. We show that, to first order in time, the dynamics are inertial, and we place constraints on the shape and curvature of the transition-state potential energy surface. Our measurements point toward analogies between this nonequilibrium phase transition and the short-time dynamics intrinsic to equilibrium liquids.

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