Crystallization and vitrification of electrons in a glass-forming charge liquid

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Science  29 Sep 2017:
Vol. 357, Issue 6358, pp. 1381-1385
DOI: 10.1126/science.aal3120

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Ordering and disordering electrons

When a liquid is cooled rapidly, it can form a glass, a state stuck between liquid and solid. Two groups looked in detail into analogous dynamics in electronic systems. Sato et al. and Sasaki et al. studied layered organic materials with a triangular in-plane lattice. These materials can assume a state in which their charge distribution has a regular pattern—an electronic or charge crystal. When the materials were cooled rapidly, a charge glass was formed instead and then allowed to crystallize. The dynamics of crystallization showed similarities to the analogous processes in conventional glasses.

Science, this issue p. 1378, p. 1381


Charge ordering (CO) is a phenomenon in which electrons in solids crystallize into a periodic pattern of charge-rich and charge-poor sites owing to strong electron correlations. This usually results in long-range order. In geometrically frustrated systems, however, a glassy electronic state without long-range CO has been observed. We found that a charge-ordered organic material with an isosceles triangular lattice shows charge dynamics associated with crystallization and vitrification of electrons, which can be understood in the context of an energy landscape arising from the degeneracy of various CO patterns. The dynamics suggest that the same nucleation and growth processes that characterize conventional glass-forming liquids guide the crystallization of electrons. These similarities may provide insight into our understanding of the liquid-glass transition.

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