Professor Andrea Liu, Hepburn Professor of Physics, has a new paper out in APL Materials.
Abstract: The plasticity of amorphous solids undergoing shear is characterized by quasi-localized rearrangements of particles. While many models of plasticity exist, the precise relationship between the plastic dynamics and the structure of a particle’s local environment remains an open question. Previously, machine learning was used to identify a structural predictor of rearrangements called “softness.” Although softness has been shown to predict which particles will rearrange with high accuracy, the method can be difficult to implement in experiments where data are limited and the combinations of descriptors it identifies are often difficult to interpret physically. Here, we address both of these weaknesses, presenting two major improvements to the standard softness method. First, we present a natural representation of each particle’s observed mobility, allowing for the use of statistical models that are both simpler and provide greater accuracy in limited datasets. Second, we employ persistent homology as a systematic means of identifying simple, topologically informed, structural quantities that are easy to interpret and measure experimentally. We test our methods on two-dimensional athermal packings of soft spheres under quasi-static shear. We find that the same structural information that predicts small variations in the response is also predictive of where plastic events will localize. We also find that an excellent accuracy is achieved in athermal sheared packings using simply a particle’s species and the number of nearest neighbor contacts.