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Direct Observation of the Length of Molecular Cooperativity in Melts of Ultrathin Glass Formers

R.M. Overney and S. Sills
University of Washington, US

mesoscale phenomena, heterogeneous dynamics, nanostructured soft materials, polymers, MEMS/NEMS, thin films

It is our great pleasure to submit this paper, which provides the long awaited microscopic real-space information about the glass transition process in polymers. In the light of the comments made by Nobel Laureate P.W. Anderson, we believe that our findings are of interest to scientists and engineers in many fields, from theoreticians to experimentalists, and particularly those in nanoscience and nanotechnology. P.W. Anderson commented (Science. 267, 1616 (1995)) that the ''deepest and most interesting unsolved problem in solid state theory is probably the theory of the nature of glass and the glass transition.'' Repeatedly it has been pointed out, most recently by L. Berthier (Phys. Rev. Lett. 69, 020201 (2004)), that we still lack the experimental technique necessary for providing direct and ''true'' spatial correlations of the heterogeneous processes related to the glass transition. Our paper is in direct response to this request; however, we offer much more than a new instrumental method. We present very exciting results that feed directly into previously unconfirmed theoretical developments regarding heterogeneous dynamics. Our discussion involves recent NEMS developments pioneered by IBM to circumvent the superparamagnetic limit in data storage, and provides a molecular strategy to “design” the glass transition value.

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