Abstract:
We present a quantitative theory for a relaxation function in a simple glass-forming model (binary mixture of particles with different interaction parameters). It is shown that the slowing down is caused by the competition between locally favored regions (clusters) which are long lived but each of which relaxes as a simple function of time. Without the clusters the relaxation of the background is simply determined by one typical length which we deduce from an elementary statistical mechanical argument. The total relaxation function (which depends on time in a nontrivial manner) is quantitatively determined as a weighted sum over the clusters and the background. The `fragility' in this system can be understood quantitatively since it is determined by the temperature dependence of the number fractions of the locally favored regions.

Abstract:
Strongly correlated amorphous solids are a class of glass-formers whose inter-particle potential admits an approximate inverse power-law form in a relevant range of inter-particle distances. We study the steady-state plastic flow of such systems, firstly in the athermal, quasi-static limit, and secondly at finite temperatures and strain rates. In all cases we demonstrate the usefulness of scaling concepts to reduce the data to universal scaling functions where the scaling exponents are determined a-priori from the inter-particle potential. In particular we show that the steady plastic flow at finite temperatures with efficient heat extraction is uniquely characterized by two scaled variables; equivalently, the steady state displays an equation of state that relates one scaled variable to the other two. We discuss the range of applicability of the scaling theory, and the connection to density scaling in supercooled liquid dynamics. We explain that the description of transient states calls for additional state variables whose identity is still far from obvious.

Abstract:
Stress vs. strain fluctuations in athermal amorphous solids are an example of `crackling noise' of the type studied extensively in the context of elastic membranes moving through random potentials. Contrary to the latter, we do not have a stochastic equation whose statistics agree with the measured ones. On the other hand we show in this Letter that the statistics of the former exhibit 'density scaling' when the interparticle potential can be well approximated by a power law. The distributions of sizes of dissipative events for a wide range of densities and system sizes follow a single scaling function. We find that both the system-size scaling of energy drops and the entire strain interval statistics are invariant to changes in density. We use this to determine accurately the exponents in the scaling laws, establishing that the present crackling noise belongs to a different universality class.

Abstract:
A number of current theories of plasticity in amorphous solids assume at their basis that plastic deformations are spatially localized. We present in this paper a series of numerical experiments to test the degree of locality of plastic deformation. These experiments increase in terms of the stringency of the removal of elastic contributions to the observed elasto-plastic deformations. It is concluded that for all our simulational protocols the plastic deformations are not localized, and their scaling is sub-extensive. We offer a number of measures of the magnitude of the plastic deformation, all of which display sub-extensive scaling characterized by non-trivial exponents. We provide some evidence that the scaling exponents governing the sub-extensive scaling laws are non-universal, depending on the degree of disorder and on the parameters of the systems. Nevertheless understanding what determines these exponents should shed considerable light on the physics of amorphous solids.

Abstract:
We propose a framework within which a robust mechanical definition of precursors to plastic instabilities, often termed `soft-spots', naturally emerges. They are shown to be collective displacements (modes) $\hat{z}_0$ that correspond to local minima of the `barrier function' $b(\hat{z})$. The latter is derived from the cubic approximation of the variation $\delta U_{\hat{z}}(s)$ of the potential energy upon displacing particles a distance $s$ along $\hat{z}$. We show that modes $\hat{z}_0$ corresponding to low-lying minima of $b(\hat{z})$ lead to transitions over energy barriers in the glass, and are therefore associated with highly asymmetric variations $\delta U_{\hat{z}}(s)$ with $s$. We further demonstrate how a heuristic search for local minima of $b(\hat{z})$ can a-priori detect the locus and geometry of imminent plastic instabilities with remarkable accuracy, at strains as large as $\gamma_c-\gamma \sim 10^{-2}$ away from the instability strain $\gamma_c$, where the non-affine displacements under shear are still largely delocalized. Our findings suggest that the a-priori detection of plastic instabilities can be effectively carried out by the investigation of the landscape of $b(\hat{z})$.

Abstract:
In the context of a classical example of glass-formation in 3-dimensions we exemplify how to construct a statistical mechanical theory of the glass transition. At the heart of the approach is a simple criterion for verifying a proper choice of up-scaled quasi-species that allow the construction of a theory with a finite number of 'states'. Once constructed, the theory identifies a typical scale $\xi$ that increases rapidly with lowering the temperature and which determines the $\alpha$-relaxation time $\tau_\alpha$ as $\tau_\alpha \sim \exp(\mu\xi/T)$ with $\mu$ a typical chemical potential. The theory can predict relaxation times at temperatures that are inaccessible to numerical simulations.

Abstract:
We derive expressions for the lowest nonlinear elastic constants of amorphous solids in athermal conditions (up to third order), in terms of the interaction potential between the constituent particles. The effect of these constants cannot be disregarded when amorphous solids undergo instabilities like plastic flow or fracture in the athermal limit; in such situations the elastic response increases enormously, bringing the system much beyond the linear regime. We demonstrate that the existing theory of thermal nonlinear elastic constants converges to our expressions in the limit of zero temperature. We motivate the calculation by discussing two examples in which these nonlinear elastic constants play a crucial role in the context of elasto-plasticity of amorphous solids. The first example is the plasticity-induced memory that is typical to amorphous solids (giving rise to the Bauschinger effect). The second example is how to predict the next plastic event from knowledge of the nonlinear elastic constants. Using the results of this paper we derive a simple differential equation for the lowest eigenvalue of the Hessian matrix in the external strain near mechanical instabilities; this equation predicts how the eigenvalue vanishes at the mechanical instability and the value of the strain where the mechanical instability takes place.

Abstract:
The art of making structural, polymeric and metallic glasses is rapidly developing with many applications. A limitation to their use is their mechanical stability: under increasing external strain all amorphous solids respond elastically to small strains but have a finite yield stress which cannot be exceeded without effecting a plastic response which typically leads to mechanical failure. Understanding this is crucial for assessing the risk of failure of glassy materials under mechanical loads. Here we show that the statistics of the energy barriers \Delta E that need to be surmounted changes from a probability distribution function (pdf) that goes smoothly to zero to a pdf which is finite at \Delta E=0. This fundamental change implies a dramatic transition in the mechanical stability properties with respect to external strain. We derive exact results for the scaling exponents that characterize the magnitudes of average energy and stress drops in plastic events as a function of system size.

Abstract:
Gels of semi-flexible polymers, network glasses made of low valence elements, softly compressed ellipses and dense suspensions under flow are examples of floppy materials. These systems present collective motions with almost no restoring force. We study theoretically and numerically the frequency-dependence of the response of these materials, and the length scales that characterize their elasticity. We show that isotropic floppy elastic networks present a phonon gap for frequencies smaller than a frequency $\omega^*$ governed by coordination, and that the elastic response is localized on a length scale $l_c\sim 1/\sqrt{\omega^*}$ that diverges as the phonon gap vanishes (with a logarithmic correction in the two dimensional case). $l_c$ also characterizes velocity correlations under shear, whereas another length scale $l^*\sim 1/\omega^*$ characterizes the effect of pinning boundaries on elasticity. We discuss the implications of our findings for suspensions flows, and the correspondence between floppy materials and amorphous solids near unjamming, where $l_c$ and $l^*$ have also been identified but where their roles are not fully understood.

Abstract:
The Shintani-Tanaka model is a glass-forming system whose constituents interact via anisotropic potential depending on the angle of a unit vector carried by each particle. The decay of time-correlation functions of the unit vectors exhibits the characteristics of generic relaxation functions during glass transitions. In particular it exhibits a 'stretched exponential' form, with the stretching index beta depending strongly on the temperature. We construct a quantitative theory of this correlation function by analyzing all the physical processes that contribute to it, separating a rotational from a translational decay channel. Interestingly, the separate decay function of each of these processes is temperature independent. Taken together with temperature-dependent weights determined a-priori by statistical mechanics one generates the observed correlation function in quantitative agreement with simulations at different temperatures. This underlines the danger of concluding anything about glassy relaxation functions without detailed physical scrutiny.