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Sidney Nagel : Exploiting disorder for global response: independence of bond-level contributions

We are customarily taught to understand ordinary solids by considering perturbations about a perfect crystal. This approach becomes increasingly untenable as the amount of disorder in the solid increases; for a glass with no well-defined long-range order, a crystal is a terrible starting point for understanding the glass’s rigidity or its excitations. Is there an alternative – the opposite of a crystal – where order, rather than disorder is the perturbation? Jamming is an alternate way of creating rigid solids that are qualitatively different from crystals. In a crystal with only one atom per unit cell, all atoms play the same role in producing the solid's global response to external perturbations. Jammed disordered materials are not similarly constrained and a new principle emerges: independence of bond-level response. Using networks where individual bonds can be successively removed, one can drive the overall system to different regimes of behavior. Consequently one can exploit disorder to achieve unique, varied, textured and tunable global response.

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