The network topology in disordered materials is an important structural descriptor for understanding the nature of disorder that is usually hidden in pairwise correlations. Here, we compare the covalent network topology of liquid and solidified silicon (Si) with that of silica (SiO2) on the basis of the analyses of the ring size and cavity distributions and tetrahedral order. We discover that the ring size distributions in amorphous (a)-Si are narrower and the cavity volume ratio is smaller than those in a-SiO2, which is a signature of poor amorphous-forming ability in a-Si. Moreover, a significant difference is found between the liquid topology of Si and that of SiO2. These topological features, which are reflected in diffraction patterns, explain why silica is an amorphous former, whereas it is impossible to prepare bulk a-Si. We conclude that the tetrahedral corner-sharing network of AX2, in which A is a fourfold cation and X is a twofold anion, as indicated by the first sharp diffraction peak, is an important motif for the amorphous-forming ability that can rule out a-Si as an amorphous former. This concept is consistent with the fact that an elemental material cannot form a bulk amorphous phase using melt quenching technique.
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