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Phys Rev Lett. 2012 Dec 7;109(23):235501. Epub 2012 Dec 5.

Structural transformations on vitrification in the fragile glass-forming system CaAl2O4.

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Centre for Science at Extreme Conditions, School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH9 3JZ, United Kingdom.


The structure of the fragile glass-forming material CaAl(2)O(4) was measured by applying the method of neutron diffraction with Ca isotope substitution to the laser-heated aerodynamically levitated liquid at 1973(30) K and to the glass at 300(1) K. The results, interpreted with the aid of molecular dynamics simulations, reveal key structural modifications on multiple length scales. Specifically, there is a reorganization on quenching that leads to an almost complete breakdown of the AlO(5) polyhedra and threefold coordinated oxygen atoms present in the liquid, and to their replacement by a predominantly corner-sharing network of AlO(4) tetrahedra in the glass. This process is accompanied by the formation of branched chains of edge and face-sharing Ca-centered polyhedra that give cationic ordering on an intermediate length scale, where the measured coordination number for O around Ca is 6.0(2) for the liquid and 6.4(2) for the glass.

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