Advanced materials: work glass like a polymer.

Important achievement in the science of materials: many opportunities for the glass industry, optics, microelectronics, biotechnology and medical engineering.

Pure quartz glass is a highly transparent material resistant to thermal, physical and chemical impacts. These are the optimal conditions for use in optics, data technology or medical engineering. For efficient and high quality work, however, adequate processes are lacking. Scientists at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) claim to have developed a forming technology to structure quartz glass as a polymer.

“It has always been a great challenge to combine highly pure quartz glass and its excellent properties with simple structuring technology,” says Dr. Bastian Rapp, head of the NeptunLab interdisciplinary research group at the KIT’s Institute of Microstructure Technology (IMT) . Instead of heating the glass up to 800 ° C to form or structure parts of glass blocks by laser processing or engraving, let’s start with the smallest glass particles. “

How the innovative glass processing process works

Scientists mix glass particles of 40 nanometers in size with a liquid polymer and cure it in a solid by heating or exposure to light. The resulting solid is glass particles in a matrix in a ratio of 60 to 40. The polymers act as a binding agent which holds the glass particles in the right places and maintains the shape.

The properties of the “glass-polymer” material

This ‘Glassomer’ can be milled, turned, laser-worked or machined in CNC machines just like a conventional polymer. To make high-performance lenses, used among other things in smartphones, scientists produce a Glassomer rod, from which the lenses are cut.

For the highly pure quartz glass, the polymers in the composite must be removed. To do this, the lenses are heated in an oven at 500-600 ° C and the polymer is completely burned with CO2. To fill the resulting gaps in the material, the lenses are then sintered at 1300 ° C, a process during which the remaining glass particles are densified in pore-free glass.

The properties of “glass-polymer” materials

This forming technology enables the production of high-purity glass materials. Until now this technology was only indicated for polymers. Today, new opportunities are opening up for the glass processing industry, the optical industry, microelectronics, biotechnology and medical engineering. “Our process is suitable for mass production: the production and use of quartz glass is much cheaper, more sustainable and more energy efficient than a special polymer,” explains Dr. Rapp .

Why thermal properties of materials matter

What are the incremental thermal properties of these new materials?

How do they correlate with other physical, mechanical and durability properties?
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