Universal Nature of Particle Displacements close to Glass and Jamming Transitions
We examine the structure of the distribution of single particle displacements (van Hove function) in a broad class of materials close to glass and jamming transitions. In a wide time window comprising structural relaxation, van Hove functions reflect the coexistence of slow and fast particles (dynamic heterogeneity). The tails of the distributions exhibit exponential, rather than Gaussian, decay. We argue that this behavior is universal in glassy materials and should be considered the analog, in space, of the stretched exponential decay of time correlation functions. We introduce a dynamical model that describes quantitatively numerical and experimental data in supercooled liquids, colloidal hard spheres, and granular materials. The tails of the distributions directly explain the decoupling between translational diffusion and structural relaxation observed in glassy materials.