Structural Rearrangements That Govern Flow in Colloidal Glasses
Structural rearrangements are an essential property of atomic and molecular glasses; they are critical in controlling resistance to flow and are central to the evolution of many properties of glasses, such as their heat capacity and dielectric constant. Despite their importance, these rearrangements cannot directly be visualized in atomic glasses. We used a colloidal glass to obtain direct three-dimensional images of thermally induced structural rearrangements in the presence of an applied shear. We identified localized irreversible shear transformation zones and determined their formation energy and topology. A transformation favored successive ones in its vicinity. Using continuum models, we elucidated the interplay between applied strain and thermal fluctuations that governs the formation of these zones in both colloidal and molecular glasses.