Ductile glass bends instead of breaking

Ductile glass bends instead of breaking

20 Nov 2019

An international team of researchers has developed a glass material with the ability to deform plastically at room temperature without fracture. The discovery may revolutionise the way glass materials are used in modern applications. The new type of glass exhibits metal-like properties and, as opposed to conventional glass, is ductile when stretched or compressed.

“Conventional glass is brittle and easily shatters under pressure. We discovered a way to manufacture glass that exhibits ductile behaviour. In other words, our glass is tougher than conventional glass,” says Marie Curie Fellow Dr. and project coordinator Erkka Frankberg from Tampere University.

New applications for glass

The new type of glass is much stronger than steel. As glass is also much lighter than steel, the new material may have potential uses, for example, in mechanical engineering and construction. Modern applications of glass are often hidden from plain sight in electronics, renewable energy production systems, space applications and battery technologies. The level of durability achieved by the researchers may open up new perspectives for research on a broad range of technologies.

A glass that is capable of plastic deformation may open up new avenues for innovation. There is great demand for more durable glass, which, for example, in smartphones would prevent the screen from breaking if the phone is dropped on a hard floor.

Looking for other glasses that exhibit plasticity

However, the research is still in its early stages. The fabrication of a glass that exhibits plasticity is extremely challenging. The researchers used a challenging technique called pulsed laser deposition to convert aluminium oxide into a glass-like state. According to Frankberg, the process must be further refined and developed before the new type of glass can be manufactured on a larger scale. A high quality glass material is mandatory for the ductility. The presence of any imperfections in the glass, such as cracks, bubbles or impurities, may result in fracture.

International cooperation plays a key role

The research project has received national funding from Finland, France and Italy and international funding from the European Union under the Horizon 2020 Research Programme. Research was also funded by Academy of Finland. The main experiments were performed using a specialized test equipment placed inside a transmission electron microscope housed in Lyon, France. The international research consortium comprised of researchers from Finland, France, Italy, Austria, Norway and USA.

“Researchers from Tampere University carried out the extensive computational modelling required for the study. We utilised the supercomputers Sisu and Taito located in the IT Center for Science (CSC) in Kajaani, Finland, to create atomic-scale models of the new material. In addition, the equipment housed in the new Tampere Microscopy Center (TMC) were utilised in the experimental part of the project. Building up the challenging experimental setup required a strong international effort from experts from diverse fields of Materials Science.”, says Frankberg, who led the research consortium.

The results were published 15th of November 2019 in the prestigious Science Magazine. (Frankberg et al. Highly ductile amorphous oxide at room temperature and high strain rate, Science 2019).

Source: Tampere University
Photo: Jonne Renvall, Tampere University 

Further information

  • Read more from Tampere University news (14.11.2019)
  • Project coordinator Erkka Frankberg, Tampere University,
Last modified 20 Nov 2019
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