Welding breakthrough could transform manufacturing

March 4, 2019, Heriot-Watt University
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Scientists from Heriot-Watt University have welded glass and metal together using an ultrafast laser system, in a breakthrough for the manufacturing industry.

Various optical materials such as quartz, borosilicate glass and even sapphire were all successfully welded to metals like aluminium, titanium and using the Heriot-Watt laser system, which provides very short, picosecond pulses of infrared light in tracks along the materials to fuse them together.

The new process could transform the and have direct applications in the aerospace, defence, optical technology and even healthcare fields.

Professor Duncan Hand, director of the five-university EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Laser-based Production Processes based at Heriot-Watt, said: "Traditionally it has been very difficult to weld together dissimilar materials like glass and metal due to their different thermal properties—the and highly different thermal expansions involved cause the glass to shatter.

"Being able to weld glass and metals together will be a huge step forward in manufacturing and design flexibility.

"At the moment, equipment and products that involve and metal are often held together by adhesives, which are messy to apply and parts can gradually creep, or move. Outgassing is also an issue—organic chemicals from the adhesive can be gradually released and can lead to reduced product lifetime.

"The process relies on the incredibly short pulses from the laser. These pulses last only a few picoseconds—a picosecond to a second is like a second compared to 30,000 years.

"The parts to be welded are placed in close contact, and the laser is focused through the optical material to provide a very small and highly intense spot at the interface between the two —we achieved megawatt peak power over an area just a few microns across.

"This creates a microplasma, like a tiny ball of lightning, inside the material, surrounded by a highly-confined melt region.

"We tested the welds at -50C to 90C and the welds remained intact, so we know they are robust enough to cope with extreme conditions."

Explore further: NASA team investigates ultrafast laser machining for multiple spaceflight applications

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1 / 5 (1) Mar 05, 2019
"We tested the welds at -50C to 90C and the welds remained intact, so we know they are robust enough to cope with extreme conditions."

Certainly a respectable result but I am unsure if that was "extreme" test? I have no opinion about the low-end of the scale, testing the welds to -500 C. I lack experience at wielding in below zero environments.

But I am impressed at that -500 C number.

+90C is, I think a good start. Especially considering the fickle nature of the metals & glass!

Wow, quite an accomplishment.

However, extreme temp will be when they can wield materials to withstand 1500 degrees Centigrade.
Re-entry heating experienced by returning spacecraft.

I'm not being greedy &
asking for too much, am I?
5 / 5 (2) Mar 05, 2019
@ RR
that's -50 C not -500 C.
5 / 5 (1) Mar 06, 2019
damn! gculpex thanks for the correction. Though now I'm not sure how amazed I should be or not?

What the hellfire!
I'm still impressed *& amazed. That the researchers achieved welding glass to metals!

5 / 5 (1) Mar 06, 2019
Well I for one would be amazed at -500°C
...'cause that would be some amazingly new physics right there (being, like, 230°C below absolute zero).
5 / 5 (1) Mar 07, 2019
150 degrees C should be a more versatile bond. Good job though!

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