On the way to the perfect glass

May 27, 2005
On the way to the perfect glass

Researchers from the United Kingdom, France and the DUBBLE beamline at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) have made a step forward in research on glass. They have monitored the change in the structure of zeolites, crystalline solids, into an almost perfect glass when heated. They have done this by recording vibrations involving groups of atoms in zeolites that subsequently characterise the glass. Their results are published today in Science.

Image: Computer simulations of zeolites (left) and what could be the perfect glass (right). Credits: Florian Meneau

Zeolites are porous crystalline aluminosilicates, presenting a regular arrangement of cages. In their natural state, they are components of soils and can be barriers against the migration of radioactive elements. In their synthetic form, zeolites are industrially applied as components of washing powders and in the cracking of petroleum to make gasoline.

Due to their cage structure, zeolites have a low-density structure. They melt at around 900°C, lower temperatures than most similar materials, such as silica (sand), which melts at twice this temperature. If the heating is carried out at a slow rate, low-frequency vibrational modes are responsible for destabilizing the microporous crystalline structure. When the cages collapse, zeolites contract, becoming 60% more denseheavier than in their original form, and they adopt the structure of a glass. “We have discovered the triggering mechanism”, says Neville Greaves, first author of the paper.

The result is a mechanically and chemically stronger glass than the glass used nowadays. “We believe this is the key to the synthesis of perfect glasses”, asserts Neville Greaves. Would this mean no more broken wine glasses? “This research could lead to that, but it is still far away. This would also mean making glass invulnerable to water, for instance”, he explains. The final aim is to find out the conditions in which the perfect glass forms.

Scientists from the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, the DUBBLE beamline at the ESRF, the Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Chimie of Paris (ENSCP) and ISIS have characterized the low-frequency vibrations that appear in zeolites during heating. The team has carried out their research in neutron as well as X-ray facilities. ISIS is a neutron and muon source located in the UK and a large part of the research presented was done there. The researchers also used a unique X-ray diffraction technique on the Dutch-Belgian beamline (DUBBLE) at the ESRF to determine the degree of crystallinity from zeolites to glass, critical to evaluate the neutron scattering results. “It is really great to combine synchrotron and neutron techniques in the same observation”, explains Greaves.

Source: European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF)

Explore further: What's next for the Large Hadron Collider?

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

People finding their 'waze' to once-hidden streets

6 hours ago

When the people whose houses hug the narrow warren of streets paralleling the busiest urban freeway in America began to see bumper-to-bumper traffic crawling by their homes a year or so ago, they were baffled.

Identity theft victims face months of hassle

7 hours ago

As soon as Mark Kim found out his personal information was compromised in a data breach at Target last year, the 36-year-old tech worker signed up for the retailer's free credit monitoring offer so he would ...

Observers slam 'lackluster' Lima climate deal

7 hours ago

A carbon-curbing deal struck in Lima on Sunday was a watered-down compromise where national intransigence threatened the goal of a pact to save Earth's climate system, green groups said.

Your info has been hacked. Now what do you do?

7 hours ago

Criminals stole personal information from tens of millions of Americans in data breaches this past year. Of those affected, one in three may become victims of identity theft, according to research firm Javelin. ...

New Bond script stolen in Sony hack

7 hours ago

An "early version" of the screenplay for the new James Bond film was the latest victim of a massive hacking attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment, its producers said in a statement on their website Sunday.

Ag-tech could change how the world eats

12 hours ago

Investors and entrepreneurs behind some of the world's newest industries have started to put their money and tech talents into farming - the world's oldest industry - with an audacious agenda: to make sure there is enough ...

Recommended for you

What's next for the Large Hadron Collider?

15 hours ago

The world's most powerful particle collider is waking up from a well-earned rest. After roughly two years of heavy maintenance, scientists have nearly doubled the power of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) ...

User comments : 0

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.