Pathways for diffusion in the potential energy landscape of the network glass former SiO2

19 Feb 2018

We study the dynamical behaviour of a computer model for viscous silica, the archetypal strong glass former, and compare its diffusion mechanism with earlier studies of a fragile binary Lennard-Jones liquid. Three different methods of analysis are employed. Firstly, the temperature and time scale dependence of the diffusion constant is analysed. Negative correlation of particle displacements influences transport properties in silica as well as in fragile liquids. We suggest that the difference between Arrhenius and super-Arrhenius diffusive behaviour results from competition between the correlation time scale and the caging time scale. Secondly, we analyse the dynamics using a geometrical definition of cage-breaking transitions that was proposed previously for fragile glass formers. We find that this definition accurately captures the bond rearrangement mechanisms which control transport in open network liquids, and reproduces the diffusion constants accurately at low temperatures. As the same method is applicable to both strong and fragile glass formers, we can compare correlation time scales in these two types of system. We compare the time spent in chains of correlated cage breaks with the characteristic caging time and find that correla tions in the fragile binary Lennard-Jones system persist for an order of magnitude longer than those in the strong silica system. We investigate the origin of the correlation behaviour by sampling the potential energy landscape for silica and comparing it with the binary Lennard-Jones model. We find no qualitative difference between the landscapes, but several metrics suggest that the landscape of the fragile liquid is rougher and more frustrated. Metabasins in silica are smaller than those in binary Lennard-Jones, and contain fewer high-barrier processes. This difference probably leads to the observed separation of correlation and caging time scales.