All liquids (except helium owing to quantum effects) crystallize at low temperatures, forming ordered structures. The competition between disorder, which stabilizes the liquid phase, and energy, which leads to a preference for the crystalline structure, inevitably favours the crystal when the temperature is lowered and entropy becomes progressively less relevant. The liquid state survives at low temperatures only as a glass, an out-of-equilibrium arrested state of matter. This textbook description holds inevitably for atomic and molecular systems, where particle interactions are set by quantum-mechanical laws. The question remains whether it holds for colloidal particles, where interparticle interactions are usually short-ranged and tunable. Here we show that for patchy colloids with limited valence(1), conditions can be found for which the liquid phase is stable even in the zero-temperature limit. Our results offer fresh cues for understanding the stability of gels(2) and the glass-forming ability of molecular network glasses(3,4).
Liquids more stable than crystals in particles with limited valence and flexible bonds / Smallenburg, Frank; Sciortino, Francesco. - In: NATURE PHYSICS. - ISSN 1745-2473. - 9:9(2013), pp. 554-558. [10.1038/nphys2693]