Elementary plastic events in amorphous silica

Silvia Bonfanti, Roberto Guerra, Chandana Mondal, Itamar Procaccia, Stefano Zapperi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Plastic instabilities in amorphous materials are often studied using idealized models of binary mixtures that do not capture accurately molecular interactions and bonding present in real glasses. Here we study atomic-scale plastic instabilities in a three-dimensional molecular dynamics model of silica glass under quasistatic shear. We identify two distinct types of elementary plastic events, one is a standard quasilocalized atomic rearrangement while the second is a bond-breaking event that is absent in simplified models of fragile glass formers. Our results show that both plastic events can be predicted by a drop of the lowest nonzero eigenvalue of the Hessian matrix that vanishes at a critical strain. Remarkably, we find very high correlation between the associated eigenvectors and the nonaffine displacement fields accompanying the bond-breaking event, predicting the locus of structural failure. Both eigenvectors and nonaffine displacement fields display an Eshelby-like quadrupolar structure for both failure modes, rearrangement, and bond breaking Our results thus clarify the nature of atomic-scale plastic instabilities in silica glasses, providing useful information for the development of mesoscale models of amorphous plasticity.

Original languageEnglish
Article number060602
Number of pages5
JournalPhysical Review E
Issue number6
StatePublished - 23 Dec 2019


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