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In supercooled liquids, vitrification generally suppresses crystallization. Yet some glasses can still crystallize despite the arrest of diffusive motion. This ill-understood process may limit the stability of glasses, but its microscopic mechanism is not yet known. Here we present extensive computer simulations addressing the crystallization of monodisperse hard-sphere glasses at constant volume (as in a colloid experiment). Multiple crystalline patches appear without particles having to diffuse more than one diameter. As these patches grow, the mobility in neighboring areas is enhanced, creating dynamic heterogeneity with positive feedback. The future crystallization pattern cannot be predicted from the coordinates alone: Crystallization proceeds by a sequence of stochastic micronucleation events, correlated in space by emergent dynamic heterogeneity.
- DEEPLY QUENCHED LIQUIDS