The crack tip : a nanolab for studying confined liquids

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We study the equilibrium properties of a liquid phase condensed at the nanoscale between the surfaces of a sharp crack in fused silica in a moist controlled atmosphere. The extension of the condensed phase along the fracture is measured by in situ atomic force microscopy phase imaging and it is shown to be determined by a critical distance between the opposite crack surfaces, which is an increasing function of humidity. The present technique is very promising for measuring the properties of confined liquids at the nanoscale as well as for modeling the physics and chemistry of slow crack propagation in glasses.

Grimaldi A., George M., Pallares G., Marlière C. and Ciccotti M., 2008. The crack tip : a nanolab for studying confined liquids. Physical Review Letters. 100, Art N. 165505.


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