Scientists look through glass to find secrets that are less clear

June 6, 2006

A new understanding of how glass is formed may assist with our understanding of everything from the design of golf club heads to the structure of the early universe.

Princeton chemists have found that the formation of glass -- a familiar substance that nonetheless retains some elusive scientific mysteries -- always occurs differently depending on how quickly a liquid substance is cooled into its solid form.

Though the findings will likely dash the hopes of condensed matter physicists who have long sought in vain for what is known as an "ideal" glass transition, they may also one day contribute to industrialists' efforts to create better plastics and other useful polymers.

"Glasses can be formed from any substance, and the way their molecules interact places them somewhere at the border between solids and liquids, giving them some properties that manufacturers can exploit," said Sal Torquato, a professor of chemistry who is also affiliated with the Princeton Center for Theoretical Physics. "Golf club heads made of metallic glasses, for example, can make golf balls fly farther. While our research could be utilized by industry, it can actually help us understand any 'glassy' multi-particle system, such as the early universe -- which cosmologists have described as a glass."

Torquato emphasized that it would probably be years before such practical applications become a reality, and that the findings were most significant for advancing our fundamental understanding of how the state of matter known as glasses behaves.

Citation: Do Binary Hard Disks Exhibit an Ideal Glass Transition? Torquato et al., Phys. Rev. Lett., 84, 2064 (2000).

Source: Princeton University

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Japanese team fires world's most powerful laser

July 29, 2015

(Phys.org)—A team of researchers and engineers at Japan's Osaka University is reporting that they have successfully fired what they are claiming is the world's most powerful laser. In their paper published in the journal ...

Short wavelength plasmons observed in nanotubes

July 28, 2015

The term "plasmons" might sound like something from the soon-to-be-released new Star Wars movie, but the effects of plasmons have been known about for centuries. Plasmons are collective oscillations of conduction electrons ...

'Expansion entropy': A new litmus test for chaos?

July 28, 2015

Can the flap of a butterfly's wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas? This intriguing hypothetical scenario, commonly called "the butterfly effect," has come to embody the popular conception of a chaotic system, in which ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.