The glassy state of matter: Its definition and ultimate fate

Edgar D. Zanotto, John C. Mauro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

213 Scopus citations


The objective of this communication is to clarify the meanings of solid and liquid, to dwell on the ultimate fate of glass in the limit of infinitely long time, and to propose a modern, improved definition of glass. We review the four characteristic states of matter related to vitrification: the stable equilibrium liquid (L), the metastable supercooled liquid (SCL), the unstable nonequilibrium glass (G), and the stable crystal (C). We also discuss some relevant terms and phenomena, including glass transition, crystallization, non-crystalline, amorphous, solid, and frozen. We review several previously published definitions of glass and finally propose an improved definition in two alternative forms. The first improved definition is: “Glass is a nonequilibrium, non-crystalline state of matter that appears solid on a short time scale but continuously relaxes towards the liquid state.” This is an intuitive description for the general public and young students. An alternative, more detailed definition to be understood and used by advanced students, researchers, and professors is: “Glass is a nonequilibrium, non-crystalline condensed state of matter that exhibits a glass transition. The structure of glasses is similar to that of their parent supercooled liquids (SCL), and they spontaneously relax toward the SCL state. Their ultimate fate, in the limit of infinite time, is to crystallize.” This definition is for experts who understand the meaning of glass transition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)490-495
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Non-Crystalline Solids
StatePublished - Sep 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Ceramics and Composites
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Materials Chemistry


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