In the experiment, in order to observe the true motion of the microscopic atoms, the researchers used larger colloidal particles to simulate the atoms and observed them with a high power microscope. It was found that the gels formed by these particles were unable to form crystals because they constituted an icosahedral structure—which is in line with the predictions made by Charles Frank of the University of Bristol in the 1950s. This structure explains why glass is “glass” rather than liquid or solid.
This study is a major breakthrough for the understanding of metastable materials, which will make it possible to further develop new materials such as metal glass. In addition, if the metal can be formed into a glass-like internal structure upon cooling, it will be possible to greatly reduce metal defects.  (Science Network Meijin/Compilation)
(Nature Materials, doi: 10.1038/nmat2219, C. Patrick Royall, Hajime Tanaka)
The surface of the glass looks solid, not really. For more than 50 years, scientists have been trying to understand the nature of glass. Scientists from the United Kingdom, Australia, and Japan jointly discovered that the reason why glass cannot become solid is the special atomic structure formed when the glass cools. Related papers will be published online on Nature Materials.
The principal investigator, Paddy Royall of the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom, said: “Some materials will crystallize on cooling and their atoms will be arranged in a highly regular pattern, called “lattice.” But the glass is cooling. At that time, the atoms were jammed together and almost randomly arranged, which prevented the formation of a regular lattice.”