Uncovering the Connection Between Low-Frequency Dynamics and Phase Transformation Phenomena in Molecular Solids.

03 Jul 2018

The low-frequency motions of molecules in the condensed phase have been shown to be vital to a large number of physical properties and processes. However, in the case of disordered systems, it is often difficult to elucidate the atomic-level details surrounding these phenomena. In this work, we have performed an extensive experimental and computational study on the molecular solid camphor, which exhibits a rich and complex structure-dynamics relationship, and undergoes an order-disorder transition near ambient conditions. The combination of x-ray diffraction, variable temperature and pressure terahertz time-domain spectroscopy, ab initio molecular dynamics, and periodic density functional theory calculations enables a complete picture of the phase transition to be obtained, inclusive of mechanistic, structural, and thermodynamic phenomena. Additionally, the low-frequency vibrations of a disordered solid are characterized for the first time with atomic-level precision, uncovering a clear link between such motions and the phase transformation. Overall, this combination of methods allows for significant details to be obtained for disordered solids and the associated transformations, providing a framework that can be directly applied for a wide range of similar systems.