Perspective: Basic understanding of condensed phases of matter via packing models

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Packing problems have been a source of fascination for millennia and their study has produced a rich literature that spans numerous disciplines. Investigations of hard-particle packing models have provided basic insights into the structure and bulk properties of condensed phases of matter, including low-temperature states (e.g., molecular and colloidal liquids, crystals, and glasses), multiphase heterogeneous media, granular media, and biological systems. The densest packings are of great interest in pure mathematics, including discrete geometry and number theory. This perspective reviews pertinent theoretical and computational literature concerning the equilibrium, metastable, and nonequilibrium packings of hard-particle packings in various Euclidean space dimensions. In the case of jammed packings, emphasis will be placed on the “geometric-structure” approach, which provides a powerful and unified means to quantitatively characterize individual packings via jamming categories and “order” maps. It incorporates extremal jammed states, including the densest packings, maximally random jammed states, and lowest-density jammed structures. Packings of identical spheres, spheres with a size distribution, and nonspherical particles are also surveyed. We close this review by identifying challenges and open questions for future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number020901
JournalJournal of Chemical Physics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 14 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Physics and Astronomy
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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