Scientists Just Proved the Existence of Liquid Glass
Glass is not a very slow moving liquid as some like to claim, unless we’re talking cosmic time scales, but it is an unusual solid. While crystals tend to line up in neat orderly patterns, glass plays by different rules. Its structure is random and unpredictable, so it’s known as an amorphous solid. While we tend to think of the silica based material used for windows and phone screens as glass, any rigid amorphous solid can be one. Plastic, for example, is a glass too.
Why glass forms this way, why it doesn’t line up into neat rows except under theoretically impossible conditions—that is the mystery that keeps drawing scientists back to this material. And that’s why one group based out of Germany decided to try something new. They mixed plastic particles that ranged from one to ten micrometers in diameter with a solvent to form what’s called a colloid. A solvent is just a substance in which materials can dissolve to form a solution and colloids can be anything from jam to milk.
Colloids can form glass and are easy to study because the particles in them are much bigger than atomic scale and can be observed under a microscope. From there, scientists can draw conclusions about what’s happening in other materials at smaller scales. Glass experiments with colloids are hardly new, but until now they had always been done with spherical nanoparticles.