Understanding the kinetics of shock-compressed SiO2 is of great importance for mitigating optical damage for high-intensity lasers and for understanding meteoroid impacts. Experimental work has placed some thermodynamic bounds on the formation of high-pressure phases of this material, but the formation kinetics and underlying microscopic mechanisms are yet to be elucidated. Here, by employing multiscale molecular dynamics studies of shock-compressed fused silica and quartz, we find that silica transforms into a poor glass former that subsequently exhibits ultrafast crystallization within a few nanoseconds. We also find that, as a result of the formation of such an intermediate disordered phase, the transition between silica polymorphs obeys a homogeneous reconstructive nucleation and grain growth model. Moreover, we construct a quantitative model of nucleation and grain growth, and compare its predictions with stishovite grain sizes observed in laser-induced damage and meteoroid impact events.
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We thank A. Salleo for helpful comments and discussion. S.B.J. is supported by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship under Grant No. DGE-114747. Y.S. is supported by a William R. Hewlett Stanford Graduate Fellowship.
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
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Shen, Y., Jester, S., Qi, T. et al. Nanosecond homogeneous nucleation and crystal growth in shock-compressed SiO2. Nature Mater 15, 60–65 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1038/nmat4447
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