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From car windshields to smartphone screens, consumers expect their glass products to be strong and durable with high optical quality. Achieving this combination of properties can be a challenge for manufacturers working with the naturally brittle material.
Jincheng Du, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the University of North Texas’ Department of Materials Science and Engineering, recently received a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study ways to improve the properties of glass materials using sophisticated modeling techniques. He received $363,745 from NSF’s Grant Opportunities for Academic Liaison with Industry (GOALI) program to work with Corning Inc. During the four-year project, Du will investigate how the mixed glass former effect alters the structure and properties of glass compositions.
Understanding Glass Structure
In multi-component glass materials, glass formers are compounds such as silicon dioxide, aluminum oxide and boron oxide that form the backbone structures of the material. The UNT team will use sophisticated computer simulations to study how mixing these compounds changes mechanical, electrical, thermal and other properties of glass materials. The team will also study the structural origins of these changes. The simulation efforts at UNT will be correlated closely with experimental research carried out at Corning.
The complicated structure of glass materials has historically prevented a detailed understanding of the relationship between structure and properties. Through atomistic computer simulations paired with experimental validation, a more rational approach can be developed to design glass compositions for various technological applications. This approach should result in a more efficient—and subsequently less expensive—design and development process for the next generation of glass materials.
“Glass research has been mainly empirical for centuries,” says Du. “Rational design of glass is hindered by the lack of understanding of the atomic level structure of glasses, which is amorphous in nature and lacks long range order such as in crystalline materials. Through integration of atomistic simulation and experimental investigations, we will obtain detailed structural information of glasses of practical interest and gain insights into the structure-property relationships. Through this approach, we hope to create a new paradigm of glass research—information driven and rational design of new glass composition and processes for various technological needs—from advanced display to solar cell to green buildings.”
The team is performing molecular dynamics simulations of aluminosilicate glasses using existing potentials. They are also developing new interatomic potentials for this glass system with the assistance of Professor Liping Huang at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI). On the industry side, Corning has been working to synthesize glasses of similar compositions and to perform structural and property characterizations on them. This experimental work will provide data to compare with the findings of Du’s simulations.
The project will involve several undergraduate and graduate students who will have the opportunity to work closely with scientists and engineers at Corning. Graduate student Lu Deng has already begun working on the project, and the team will add an undergraduate student this spring or summer.