Nature of excitations and defects in structural glasses.
The nature of defects in amorphous materials, analogous to vacancies and dislocations in crystals, remains elusive. Here, we explore their nature in a three-dimensional microscopic model glass-former that describes granular, colloidal, atomic and molecular glasses by changing the temperature and density. We find that all glasses evolve in a very rough energy landscape, with a hierarchy of barrier sizes corresponding to both localized and delocalized excitations. Collective excitations dominate in the jamming regime relevant for granular and colloidal glasses. By moving gradually to larger densities describing atomic and molecular glasses, the system crosses over to a regime dominated by localized defects and relatively simpler landscapes. We quantify the energy and temperature scales associated to these defects and their evolution with density. Our results pave the way to a systematic study of low-temperature physics in a broad range of physical conditions and glassy materials.