Memory versus irreversibility in the thermal densification of amorphous glasses
AbstractWe report on dynamic effects associated with thermally annealing amorphous indium-oxide films. In this process, the resistance of a given sample may decrease by several orders of magnitude at room temperatures, while its amorphous structure is preserved. The main effect of the process is densification, i.e., increased system density. The study includes the evolution of the system resistivity during and after the thermal treatment, the changes in the conductance noise, and the accompanying changes in the optical properties. The sample resistance is used to monitor the system dynamics during the annealing period as well as the relaxation that ensues after its termination. These reveal slow processes that fit well with a stretched-exponential law, a behavior that is commonly observed in structural glasses. There is an intriguing similarity between these effects and those obtained in high-pressure densification experiments. Both protocols exhibit the “slow spring-back” effect, a familiar response of memory foams. A heuristic picture based on a modified Lennard-Jones potential for the effective interparticle interaction is argued to qualitatively account for these densification-rarefaction phenomena in amorphous materials, whether affected by thermal treatment or by application of high pressure.