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Researchers Develop Stronger Glass

Monday, April 13, 2015

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LOS ANGELES—A team of French and American researchers say they have identified the optimum conditions to increase the lifespan and durability of glass.

While glass is a strong building material, it is susceptible to aging and variations in temperature, researchers from the University of California Los Angeles Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science and the Université Pierre et Marie Curie in Paris report.

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The team says that it is possible to produce a glass that will be almost unbreakable. Once that is accomplished, it could be used as an alternative to typical concrete for infrastructure.

The research could affect the future of cement, display screens, fiber optic cables and windows as well as slow the production of greenhouse gases, according to the team.

The findings were recently reported in “Densified network glasses and liquids with thermodynamically reversible and structurally adaptive behavior” in the journal Nature Communications.

Aging and Relaxing

Glasses are liquids that are cooled in the manufacturing process to reach a stable “frozen liquid” state, according to the research announcement.

However, as glass ages and is exposed to temperature variations, it continues to flow or “relax,” causing it to change shape.

Over time, windows and digital screens can deform, and eventually become unusable.

glass research
UCLA Engineering

The researchers performed computer simulations to test the molecular dynamics of materials commonly used to make glass.

In the case of cement—which has a molecular structure similar to that of glass—relaxation eventually leads to cracking and, in bridges and tall buildings, a loss of structural integrity, according to the researchers.

Research Details

The researchers performed computer simulations to test the molecular dynamics of materials commonly used to make glass.  

They discovered a range of pressures that are best for achieving “thermal reversibility,” the process in which a material will retain the same properties it had when it was produced, even if it has been exposed over time to variations in temperature, the researchers report.

The ideal pressure window is between 2 and 12 gigaPascals, the researchers told the Civil Engineering Magazine.

“The key finding is that if you use specific conditions to form glass—the right pressure and the right composition of the material—you can design reversible glasses that show little or no aging over time,” said Mathieu Bauchy, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at UCLA.

New Era of Infrastructure

Bauchy told Civil Engineering that it will be possible to produce a glass that will be almost unbreakable.

“When you do that, it means that you can start to use glass as a viable alternative to a typical concrete for infrastructure. It starts to have the same properties in terms of strength and reliability," said Bauchy.

The material would also have the advantage of transparency.

The team is examining methods of improving concrete in separate research.

Slowing Greenhouse Gas Production

The research could also have a significant impact in slowing the production of greenhouse gases, the announcement stated.

“The smaller the quantity of material we use to rebuild deteriorating structures, the better it is for the environment,” said Bauchy, whose research focuses on forging stronger ties between fundamental physics and engineering to design better, more sustainable materials.

Bauchy was the lead author of the research; Matthieu Micoulaut, a professor of materials science at the Université Pierre et Marie Curie, was the principal investigator.


Tagged categories: Building design; Cement; Coatings Technology; Europe; Glass; North America; Research

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (4/13/2015, 8:29 AM)

Okay, the researchers don't seem to know a lot about concrete. Cracks formed after initial cure generally form by DEF or ASR, not relaxation. The other major degradation mechanisms which come to mind are carbonation and chloride permeation. Sulfate attack in some geographic areas.

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