Structurally disordered materials: from fundamental physics to applications
Prof. Dr. Alessio Zaccone (Physik-Department, Technische Universität München)
The 20th century saw a major revolution in our understanding of materials, whereby perfect crystals have played a key role for both theory and applications of solid-state science. There is no doubt that the 21st century revolution in materials physics will be centred on disordered (non-crystalline) materials, for several reasons. First of all, their natural abundance and industrial processing make them economically attractive. Furthermore, they present a range of properties and mechanical performances that are unattainable with their crystalline counterparts. I will focus on the lattice dynamics and deformation behaviour of amorphous materials, where recent progress led to the possibility of dealing with structural disorder at the molecular-scale in a non-perturbative way, which means that strongly disordered solids like glasses can be accurately described. This framework allows us to understand the complex atomic-scale deformation behaviour and plastic instabilities of, among others, bulk metallic glasses, which are the most promising materials for advanced applications (e.g. airspace engineering). Future challenges include the electronic and electrical properties of these and other amorphous materials (e.g. polymers) for energy applications, and a bottom-up molecular-level understanding of biological materials.