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Researchers in the US have discovered an entirely new liquid phase that arises as ultrathin films of glass are deposited directly onto cooled substrates. Led by Zahra Fakhraai at the University of Pennsylvania, the researchers used an intense X-ray source to reveal extremely dense, highly stable structures within the films, which transitioned to more conventional bulk liquids above a certain temperature.

Glasses typically form as a material undergoes rapid cooling from its molten state. Below a certain transition temperature, molecules within this supercooled liquid (SCL) slow down, allowing the material’s structure to solidify. The result is a substance with similar properties to a crystalline solid, but with atoms in a disordered configuration that more closely resembles a liquid.

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