Vitrification and irradiation can both result in the disordering of materials, that is, in the loss of the structural periodicity observed inside crystals. In the case of vitrification, a material is quenched from its liquid state fast enough to avoid crystallization. In this case, due to the high cooling rate, the atoms do not have enough time to reorganize in order to achieve the structure of the crystal and remain stuck in a disordered state. In the case of irradiation, high-energy particle like neutrons collide with the atoms of the network, thereby inducing the formation of structural defects (permanent displacements of atoms). These defects accumulate over time, which can eventually lead to a complete disordering of the material.
Although these two mechanisms both result in a disordered atomic network, our recent results suggest that they differ in nature. These results were reported in the Journal of Chemical Physics:
“Irradiation- vs. vitrification-induced disordering: The case of a-quartz and glassy silica” (DOI: 10.1063/1.4982944)
This study was highlighted by various media: