Through a glass darkly

Princeton chemists have discovered that the formation of a glass always occurs differently depending on how quickly a liquid substance is cooled into its solid form. Researchers had suggested that an ideal glass passes through a transition point on cooling at which it snaps from disordered liquid into a solid-state order. Sal Torquato and colleagues at Princeton University performed a computer simulation of the transition and could see no well-defined transition point. The findings could have implications as far reaching as how to make better golf club heads and to understanding the structure of the early universe. Torquato explains, "Golf club heads made of metallic glasses, for example, can make golf balls fly farther. While our research could be utilized by industry, it can actually help us understand any 'glassy' multi-particle system, such as the early universe - which cosmologists have described as a glass." Their findings, published on June 6 in Physical Review Letters, also smash any chance of materials scientists finding the ideal glass.