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  1. The discovery of ultrastable glasses raises novel challenges about glassy systems. Recent experiments studied the macroscopic devitrification of ultrastable glasses into liquids upon heating but lacked microscopic resolution. We use molecular dynamics simulations to analyze the kinetics of this transformation. In the most stable systems, devitrification occurs after a very large time, but the liquid emerges in two steps. At short times, we observe the rare nucleation and slow growth of isolated droplets containing a liquid maintained under pressure by the rigidity of the surrounding glass. At large times, pressure is released after the droplets coalesce into large domains, which accelerates devitrification. This two-step process produces pronounced deviations from the classical Avrami kinetics and explains the emergence of a giant lengthscale characterizing the devitrification of bulk ultrastable glasses. Our study elucidates the nonequilibrium kinetics of glasses following a large temperature jump, which differs from both equilibrium relaxation and aging dynamics, and will guide future experimental studies. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 18, 2024
  2. X-ray scattering has been used to characterize the columnar packing and the π stacking in a glass-forming discotic liquid crystal. In the equilibrium liquid state, the intensities of the scattering peaks for π stacking and columnar packing are proportional to each other, indicating concurrent development of the two orders. Upon cooling into the glassy state, the π–π distance shows a kinetic arrest with a change in the thermal expansion coefficient (TEC) from 321 to 109 ppm/K, while the intercolumnar spacing exhibits a constant TEC of 113 ppm/K. By changing the cooling rate, it is possible to prepare glasses with a wide range of columnar and π stacking orders, including zero order. For each glass, the columnar order and the π stacking order correspond to a much hotter liquid than its enthalpy and π–π distance, with the difference between the two internal (fictive) temperatures exceeding 100 K. By comparison with the relaxation map obtained by dielectric spectroscopy, we find that the δ mode (disk tumbling within a column) controls the columnar order and the π stacking order trapped in the glass, while the α mode (disk spinning about its axis) controls the enthalpy and the π–π spacing. Our finding is relevant for controlling the different structural features of a molecular glass to optimize its properties. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 28, 2024
  3. Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 17, 2024
  4. Surface diffusion has been measured in the glass of an organic semiconductor, MTDATA, using the method of surface grating decay. The decay rate was measured as a function of temperature and grating wavelength, and the results indicate that the decay mechanism is viscous flow at high temperatures and surface diffusion at low temperatures. Surface diffusion in MTDATA is enhanced by 4 orders of magnitude relative to bulk diffusion when compared at the glass transition temperature T g . The result on MTDATA has been analyzed along with the results on other molecular glasses without extensive hydrogen bonds. In total, these systems cover a wide range of molecular geometries from rod-like to quasi-spherical to discotic and their surface diffusion coefficients vary by 9 orders of magnitude. We find that the variation is well explained by the existence of a steep surface mobility gradient and the anchoring of surface molecules at different depths. Quantitative analysis of these results supports a recently proposed double-exponential form for the mobility gradient: log  D( T, z) = log  D v ( T) + [log  D 0 − log  D v ( T)]exp(− z/ξ), where D( T, z) is the depth-dependent diffusion coefficient, D v ( T) is the bulk diffusion coefficient, D 0 ≈ 10 −8  m 2 /s, and ξ ≈ 1.5 nm. Assuming representative bulk diffusion coefficients for these fragile glass formers, the model reproduces the presently known surface diffusion rates within 0.6 decade. Our result provides a general way to predict the surface diffusion rates in molecular glasses. 
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  5. Glasses prepared by physical vapor deposition (PVD) are anisotropic, and the average molecular orientation can be varied significantly by controlling the deposition conditions. While previous work has characterized the average structure of thick PVD glasses, most experiments are not sensitive to the structure near an underlying substrate or interface. Given the profound influence of the substrate on the growth of crystalline or liquid crystalline materials, an underlying substrate might be expected to substantially alter the structure of a PVD glass, and this near-interface structure is important for the function of organic electronic devices prepared by PVD, such as organic light-emitting diodes. To study molecular packing near buried organic–organic interfaces, we prepare superlattice structures (stacks of 5- or 10-nm layers) of organic semiconductors, Alq3 (Tris-(8-hydroxyquinoline)aluminum) and DSA-Ph (1,4-di-[4-(N,N-diphenyl)amino]styrylbenzene), using PVD. Superlattice structures significantly increase the fraction of the films near buried interfaces, thereby allowing for quantitative characterization of interfacial packing. Remarkably, both X-ray scattering and spectroscopic ellipsometry indicate that the substrate exerts a negligible influence on PVD glass structure. Thus, the surface equilibration mechanism previously advanced for thick films can successfully describe PVD glass structure even within the first monolayer of deposition on an organic substrate.

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  6. null (Ed.)