Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

A Plane With Wings Of Glass?

Date:
June 24, 2008
Source:
University of Bristol
Summary:
Imagine a plane that has wings made out of glass. Thanks to a major breakthrough in understanding the nature of glass by scientists at the University of Bristol, this has just become a possibility.

Colloidal particles, that mimic atoms, form a gel with the structure of glass.
Credit: Paddy Royall, University of Bristol, UK

Imagine a plane that has wings made out of glass. Thanks to a major breakthrough in understanding the nature of glass by scientists at the University of Bristol, this has just become a possibility.

Despite its solid appearance, glass is actually a 'jammed' state of matter that moves very slowly. Like cars in a traffic jam, atoms in a glass can't reach their destination because the route is blocked by their neighbours, so it never quite becomes a 'proper' solid.

For more than 50 years most scientists have tried to understand just what glass is. Work so far has concentrated on trying to understand the traffic jam, but now Dr Paddy Royall from the University of Bristol, with colleagues in Canberra and Tokyo, has shown that the problem really lies with the destination, not with the traffic jam.

Publishing June 22, 2008, in Nature Materials, the team has revealed that glass 'fails' to be a solid due to the special atomic structures that form in a glass when it cools (ie, when the atoms arrive at their destination).

Royall explained: "Some materials crystallize as they cool, arranging their atoms into a highly regular pattern called a lattice. But although glass 'wants' to be a crystal, as it cools the atoms become jammed in a nearly random arrangement, preventing it from forming a regular lattice.

"Back in the 1950s, Sir Charles Frank in the Physics Department at Bristol University suggested that the arrangement of the 'jam' should form what is known as an icosahedron, but at the time he was unable to provide experimental proof. We set out to see if he was right."

The problem is you can't watch what happens to atoms as they cool because they are just too small. So using special particles called colloids that mimic atoms, but are just large enough to be visible using state-of-the-art microscopy, Royall cooled some down and watched what happened.

What he found was that the gel these particles formed also 'wants' to be a crystal, but it fails to become one due to the formation of icosahedra-like structures -- exactly as Frank had predicted 50 years ago. It is the formation of these structures that underlie jammed materials and explains why a glass is a glass and not a liquid -- or a solid.

Knowing the structure formed by atoms as a glass cools represents a major breakthrough in our understanding of meta-stable materials and will allow further development of new materials such as metallic glasses.

Metals normally crystallize when they cool, unfortunately stress builds up along the boundaries between crystals, which leads to metal failure. For example, the world's first jetliner, the British built De Havilland Comet, fell out of the sky due to metal failure. If a metal could be made to cool with the same internal structure as a glass and without crystal grain boundaries, it would be less likely to fail.

Metallic glasses could be suitable for a whole range of products that need to be flexible such as aircraft wings, golf clubs and engine parts.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Bristol. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Patrick Royall et al. Direct observation of a local structural mechanism for dynamic arrest. Nature Materials, Published online: 22 June 2008 DOI: 10.1038/nmat2219

Cite This Page:

University of Bristol. "A Plane With Wings Of Glass?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 June 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080622224438.htm>.
University of Bristol. (2008, June 24). A Plane With Wings Of Glass?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080622224438.htm
University of Bristol. "A Plane With Wings Of Glass?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080622224438.htm (accessed July 22, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Government Approves East Coast Oil Exploration

Government Approves East Coast Oil Exploration

AP (July 18, 2014) The Obama administration approved the use of sonic cannons to discover deposits under the ocean floor by shooting sound waves 100 times louder than a jet engine through waters shared by endangered whales and turtles. (July 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sunken German U-Boat Clearly Visible For First Time

Sunken German U-Boat Clearly Visible For First Time

Newsy (July 18, 2014) The wreckage of the German submarine U-166 has become clearly visible for the first time since it was discovered in 2001. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Obama: U.S. Must Have "smartest Airports, Best Power Grid"

Obama: U.S. Must Have "smartest Airports, Best Power Grid"

Reuters - US Online Video (July 17, 2014) President Barak Obama stopped by at a lunch counter in Delaware before making remarks about boosting the nation's infrastructure. Mana Rabiee reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Crude Oil Prices Bounce Back After Falling Below $100 a Barrel

Crude Oil Prices Bounce Back After Falling Below $100 a Barrel

TheStreet (July 16, 2014) Oil Futures are bouncing back after tumbling below $100 a barrel for the first time since May yesterday. Jeff Grossman is the president of BRG Brokerage and trades at the NYMEX. Grossman tells TheStreet the Middle East is always a concern for oil traders. Oil prices were pushed down in recent weeks on Libya increasing its production. Supply disruptions in Iraq fading also contributed to prices falling. News from China's economic front showing a growth for the second quarter also calmed fears on its slowdown. Jeff Grossman talks to TheStreet's Susannah Lee on this and more on the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration (EIA) report. Video provided by TheStreet
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins