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Atomic-Scale Visualization of Inertial Dynamics

Science  15 Apr 2005:
Vol. 308, Issue 5720, pp. 392-395
DOI: 10.1126/science.1107996

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Abstract

The motion of atoms on interatomic potential energy surfaces is fundamental to the dynamics of liquids and solids. An accelerator-based source of femtosecond x-ray pulses allowed us to follow directly atomic displacements on an optically modified energy landscape, leading eventually to the transition from crystalline solid to disordered liquid. We show that, to first order in time, the dynamics are inertial, and we place constraints on the shape and curvature of the transition-state potential energy surface. Our measurements point toward analogies between this nonequilibrium phase transition and the short-time dynamics intrinsic to equilibrium liquids.

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