Broadband dielectric spectroscopy is a powerful technique for understanding the dynamics in supercooled liquids. It generates information about the timescale of the orientational motions of molecular dipoles within the liquid. However, dynamics of liquids measured in the non-linear response regime has recently become an area of significant interest, because additional information can be obtained compared with linear response measurements.
The first part of this thesis describes nonlinear dielectric relaxation experiments performed on various molecular glass forming-liquids, with an emphasis on the response at high frequencies (excess wing). A significant nonlinear dielectric effect (NDE) was found to persist in these modes, and the magnitude of this NDE traces the temperature dependence of the activation energy. A time resolved measurement technique monitoring the dielectric loss revealed that for the steady state NDE to develop it would take a very large number of high amplitude alternating current (ac) field cycles. High frequency modes were found to be ‘slaved’ to the average structural relaxation time, contrary to the standard picture of heterogeneity. Nonlinear measurements were also performed on the Johari-Goldstein β-relaxation process. High ac fields were found to modify the amplitudes of these secondary modes. The nonlinear features of this secondary process are reminiscent of those found for the excess wing regime, suggesting that these two contributions to dynamics have common origins.
The second part of this thesis describes the nonlinear effects observed from the application of high direct current (dc) bias fields superposed with a small amplitude sinusoidal ac field. For several molecular glass formers, the application of a dc field was found to slow down the system via reduction in configurational entropy (Adam-Gibbs relation). Time resolved measurements indicated that the rise of the non-linear effect is slower than its decay, as observed in the electro-optical Kerr effect. A model was discussed which quantitatively captures the observed magnitudes and time dependencies of the NDE. Asymmetry in these rise and decay times was demonstrated as a consequence of the quadratic field dependence of the entropy change. It was demonstrated that the high bias field modifies the polarization response to the field, even including the zero field limit.