Dynamical crossover at the liquid-liquid transformation of a compressed molten alkali metal

  • Bryk T
  • De Panfilis S
  • Gorelli F
 et al. 
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Abstract

Density-driven phase transformations are a known phenomenon in liquids. Pressure-driven transitions from an open low-density to a higher-density close-packed structure were observed for a number of systems. Here, we show a less intuitive, inverse behavior. We investigated the electronic, atomic, and dynamic structures of liquid Rb along an isothermal line at 573 K, at 1.2-27.4 GPa, by means of ab initio molecular dynamics simulations and inelastic x-ray scattering experiments. The excellent agreement of the simulations with experimental data performed up to 6.6 GPa validates the overall approach. Above 12.5 GPa, the breakdown of the nearly-free-electron model drives a transition of the pure liquid metal towards a less metallic, denser liquid, whose first coordination shell is less compact. Our study unveils the interplay between electronic, structural, and dynamic degrees of freedom along this liquid-liquid phase transition. In view of its electronic nature, we believe that this behavior is general for the first group elements, thus shedding new light into the high-pressure properties of alkali metals.

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