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Fractal atomic-level percolation in metallic glasses
Metallic glasses are metallic alloys that exhibit exotic material properties. They may have fractal structures at the atomic level, but a physical mechanism for their organization without ordering has not been identified. We demonstrated a crossover between fractal short-range (<2 atomic diameters) and homogeneous long-range structures using in situ x-ray diffraction, tomography, and molecular dynamics simulations. A specific class of fractal, the percolation cluster, explains the structural details for several metallic-glass compositions. We postulate that atoms percolate in the liquid phase and that the percolating cluster becomes rigid at the glass transition temperature.