Non-crystalline or glassy materials are ubiquitous in our society. From shards of naturally occurring obsidian glass used as simple tools and art objects in early human history to fiber optics used in high speed data communication or metallic glasses used for their superior strength and hardness, glasses today continue to play a diverse and vital role in many aspects of our daily lives. Even today, there is significant room for improving our understanding of their atomic level structure and subsequently improve our ability to tailor their properties to our needs.
Surprisingly, even the structure of vitreous silica, probably one of the most extensively studied glasses, is still not well understood beyond the basic [SiO4]; tetrahedral structural unit. Despite the use of titles such as
random network model,
modified random network, etc., we generally know very little about what
random truly means. It is often said that disorder is what makes a glass a glass, but what does this really mean?