New endeavours in glass research give promising implications in understanding the material's optical qualities

The construction of glass is an old and historical technique, used as far back as Ancient Rome and Egypt. An essential material, glass is predominantly utilized as a protective screen to shield us from the elements, it also allows natural light to flood into buildings and illuminate our lives. Not only do glass windows tell us what time of day it is, but as diurnal species, we require natural light in our indoor spaces to maintain good health and wellbeing. In addition to using it within our homes, glass is also prevalent in other essential aspects of life- from our smartphones to TV screens. In fact, it is often a rare occurrence if a layer of glass is not between ourselves and whatever we’re observing. In addition to the recent development of 3D glass printing, new endeavors in glass research have emerged which aim better understand the optical qualities of the material.

Although a medium with a prevalent past, researchers still critique how particular glass forms into its viscous self, and also how various glass properties are constructed. Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania have developed a new method packing of glass, with unusual optical properties. This innovative research gives exciting developments into the construction of glass with divergent mechanical properties. Additionally, this development provides new insight into the formation of glass. Specifically, the university examined optical properties of tightly formed packs of glass, produced by placing glass molecules from a vapor phase onto a cold substrate. The research team discovered that constructing the glass this way enabled the glass to have unique molecules which do not align themselves with any substrate when they are deposited (unlike other types of glass). They found that these stable glasses were birefringent and that the index of refraction of light was different in directions parallel to the substrate (which usually would not be expected in a rounded object). The process of constructing glass this way establishes a new order of the material- one that has no orientation. The glass produced by this method is unique as it does not have a particular molecular orientation, however, the molecular distances can still be manipulated. This finding is significant as when birefringence light is shined in one direction it will break differently (in comparison to light shined from another direction), and is usually exhibited in liquid crystal displays.

For the construction industry, the research is useful as it establishes new possibilities for better understanding the structure and process of making stable glass. Additionally, this research illustrates that if we lower state phases while constructing glass, it provides a way of engineering optical properties without solidifying the structure of the material. Thus, this innovative research gives promising implications into the development divergent mechanical properties and additionally suggests that in future studies, it might be possible to manipulate the layering and orientation of glass to give it different properties, e.g., anti-scratch coatings.

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