Distinguishing different classes of secondary relaxations from vapour deposited ultrastable glasses†
Secondary relaxations persistent in the glassy state after structural arrest are especially relevant for the properties of the glass. A major thrust in research in dynamics of glass-forming liquids is to identify what secondary relaxations exhibit a connection to the structural relaxation and are hence more relevant. Via the Coupling Model, secondary relaxations having such connection have been identified by properties similar to the primitive relaxation of the Coupling Model and are called the Johari–Goldstein (JG) β-relaxations. They involve the motion of the entire molecule and act as the precursor of the structural α-relaxation. The change in dynamics of the secondary relaxation by aging an ordinary glass is one way to understand the connection between the two relaxations, but the results are often equivocal. Ultrastable glasses, formed by physical vapour deposition, exhibit density and enthalpy levels comparable to ordinary glasses aged for thousands of years, as well as some particular molecular arrangement. Thus, ultrastable glasses enable the monitoring of the evolution of secondary processes in case aging does not provide any definitive information. Here, we study the secondary relaxation of several ultrastable glasses to identify different types of secondary relaxations from their different relationship with the structural relaxation. We show the existence of two clearly differentiated groups of relaxations: those becoming slower in the ultrastable state and those becoming faster, with respect to the ordinary unaged glass. We propose ultrastability as a way to distinguish between secondary processes arising from the particular microstructure of the system and those connected in properties to and acting as the precursor of the structural relaxation in the sense of the Coupling Model.