Packing Structures and Transitions in Liquids and Solids

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Science  07 Sep 1984:
Vol. 225, Issue 4666, pp. 983-989
DOI: 10.1126/science.225.4666.983


Classification of potential energy minima—mechanically stable molecular packings—offers a unifying principle for understanding condensed phase properties. This approach permits identification of an inherent structure in liquids that is normally obscured by thermal motions. Melting and freezing occur through characteristic sequences of molecular packings, and a defect-softening phenomenon underlies the fact that they are thermodynamically first order. The topological distribution of feasible transitions between contiguous potential minima explains glass transitions and associated relaxation behavior.