Journal of Statistical Physics

, Volume 140, Issue 4, pp 718–727 | Cite as

Do Solids Flow?

  • F. Sausset
  • G. Biroli
  • J. Kurchan


Are solids intrinsically different from liquids? Must a finite stress be applied in order to induce flow? Or, instead, do all solids only look rigid on some finite timescales and eventually flow if an infinitesimal shear stress is applied? Surprisingly, these simple questions are a matter of debate and definite answers are still lacking. Here we show that solidity is only a time-scale dependent notion: equilibrium states of matter that break spontaneously translation invariance, e.g. crystals, flow if even an infinitesimal stress is applied. However, they do so in a way inherently different from ordinary liquids since their viscosity diverges for vanishing shear stress with an essential singularity. We find an ultra-slow decrease of the shear stress as a function of the shear rate, which explains the apparent yield stress identified in rheological flow curves. Furthermore, we suggest that an alternating shear of frequency ω and amplitude γ should lead to a dynamic phase transition line in the (ω,γ) plane, from a ‘flowing’ to a ‘non-flowing’ phase. Finally, we apply our results to crystals, show the corresponding microscopic process leading to flow and discuss possible experimental investigations.


Solid Flow Yield stress 


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institut de Physique Théorique, CEA, IPhTCNRS, URA 2306Gif-sur-YvetteFrance
  2. 2.Physique et Mécanique des Milieux Hétérogènes, PMMH, ESPCICNRS, UMR 7636ParisFrance

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