21. June 2016
Were you the Class Clown or Most Likely to Succeed? If glass were a high school senior, which “Best of” or “Most Likely to” would it be?
Actually, it’d be many. This versatile material is used in applications large and small, and it’s capable of assisting scientific research, new innovations in technology, and delivering life-saving drugs to patients. Glass has near-limitless potential in countless forms and uses, and it’s often the best material for the job.
This isn’t your normal superlatives list. Let’s look at some of the biggest and best glass technologies that are changing our past beliefs about design and the limits of glass.
Most likely to spot the next Earth: ZERODUR®, a glass-ceramic that’s perfect for telescopes because of its near-zero thermal expansion, is used as a mirror carrier in many of the largest and most powerful telescopes in the world that are searching for black holes and other Earths. This material is in the Large Sky Area Multi-Object Fiber Spectroscopic Telescope (LAMOST), the largest Schmidt telescope in the world, as well as the largest optical single telescope, the Gran Telescopio Canarias on the Canary Island of La Palma, which has a mirror with a diameter of 10.4 meters.
Most likely to stand up to the toughest challenge: When the going gets tough, the toughest get tougher. Cartridge BR is a chemically strengthened glass cartridge that can hold precious drugs in the most stressful circumstances. Used in auto-injectors and pen systems, these cartridges are three times stronger than traditional glass, and that’s because they’re toughened in an ion bath. When processed in a potassium nitrate solution, the larger potassium ions bond to the glass’s chemical structure, adding more strength at the molecular level.
Most likely to be a force for innovation: The biggest innovation of the year might be hard to imagine: How can glass be thinner than a piece of paper? Today, SCHOTT can manufacture ultra-thin glass to thicknesses of just 25 microns, half as thin as a human hair. This bendable, rollable glass is flexible and strong — it can be toughened to become the world’s strongest ultra-thin glass — and it’s unlocking new designs in everything from wearables and smartphones to Internet of Things devices to battery substrates. Could glass one day be as thin as just 10 microns? It’s very possible.
‘Biggest’ achievement: DURAN® borosilicate glass is the material that makes the world’s largest glass tube, measuring in at 18 inches across and 60 inches long. Normally, producing a glass tube this gigantic is difficult, but SCHOTT is capable of manufacturing this huge tube through a process that prevents the walls from collapsing under their own weight. After the complex manufacturing process, the DURAN glass retains excellent optical and surface quality.
Best couple: Borosilicate glass is also used in modern neutron research. Neutron conductors, made of BOROFLOAT® borosilicate glass with a special coating, ensure particles stay on course as researchers study novel materials. The glass’s extremely smooth surface permits particles to travel to their destination practically without loss. Thanks to these properties, research facilities around the world are working with more precise results.
The best of the best
There was once talk that plastics were the future, but glass simply is a cut above the rest. As we’ve seen, glass is such a versatile material, and it’s making a difference in space exploration, pharmaceuticals, and microelectronics.
Glass has been used by humans for millennia, and it’s still full of untapped potential. It’s certainly most likely to remain the material of choice for designers, engineers, and chemists now, and in the future.