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J Chem Phys. 2008 Dec 21;129(23):234514. doi: 10.1063/1.3041651.

On the surface of glasses.

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Department of Physics, Center for Theoretical Biological Physics, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California 92093, USA.


Dynamics near the surface of glasses is generally much faster than in the bulk. Neglecting static perturbations of structure at the surface, we use random first order transition (RFOT) theory to show the free energy barrier for activated motion near a free surface should be half that of the bulk at the same temperature. The increased mobility allows the surface layers to descend much further on the energy landscape than the bulk ordinarily does. The simplified RFOT calculation, however, predicts a limiting value for the configurational entropy a vapor deposited glass may reach as a function of deposition rate. We sketch how mode coupling effects extend the excess free surface mobility into the bulk so that the glass transition temperature is measurably perturbed at depths greater than the naive length scale of dynamic cooperativity.

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