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Revealing the three-dimensional structure of liquids using four-point correlation functions

  • Zhang, Zhen
  • Kob, Walter
Published Article
Publication Date
Jul 02, 2020
Submission Date
Jul 02, 2020
DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2005638117
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Disordered systems like liquids, gels, glasses, or granular materials are not only ubiquitous in daily life and in industrial applications but they are also crucial for the mechanical stability of cells or the transport of chemical and biological agents in living organisms. Despite the importance of these systems, their microscopic structure is understood only on a rudimentary level, thus in stark contrast to the case of gases and crystals. Since scattering experiments and analytical calculations usually give only structural information that is spherically averaged, the three dimensional (3D) structure of disordered systems is basically unknown. Here we introduce a simple method that allows to probe the 3D structure of such systems. Using computer simulations we find that hard-sphere-like liquids have on intermediate and large scales an intricate structural order given by alternating layers with icosahedral and dodecahedral symmetries, while open network liquids like silica have a structural order with tetrahedral symmetry. These results show that liquids have a highly non-trivial 3D structure and that this structural information is encoded in non-standard correlation functions.

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