An international group of researchers from Europe, China and Japan, led by Aberystwyth University physicist, Professor Neville Greaves, has discovered a new method of manufacturing glass.
The discovery could lead to the production of 'designer glasses' with applications in advanced photonics, while also facilitating industrial scale carbon capture and storage.
The international team of researchers, publishing in the journal Nature Communications, report how they have managed to use a relatively new family of sponge-like porous materials to develop completely novel glasses.
By careful processing, these fragile porous materials can be melted before they decompose and burn.
The liquids that are formed on the nanoscale, can be shaped and cast, that could enable substantial solid structures to be fabricated.
It is the open atomic architecture, an atomic labyrinth, that should enable toxic or useful molecules to be selectively trapped or filtered.
Professor Neville Greaves delivered the findings in his plenary lecture at the International Congress on Glass, which was held at the end of September in Bangkok, Thailand.
Professor Greaves explained: "Quite apart from their industrial potential, watching the way porous materials transform is a major step forward. With these discoveries we are starting to learn the ground rules of the way materials melt."
For François-Xavier Coudert, a physical chemist who specialises in porous materials at CNRS in France, the interest lies in its possible impact on the fundamental chemistry. "Making metal-organic framework as liquids, it's a totally new state of matter that becomes accessible in addition to the traditional solid material."
Using the advanced equipment at the Diamond Light Source Science Facility in Oxfordshire, which houses the UK's Synchrotron Particle Accelerator, the team were able to scrutinise these glassy frameworks in atomic detail.
Professor Trevor Rayment, the Physical Science Director at the facility said: "this work is an exciting example of how work with synchrotron radiation which deepens our fundamental understanding of the properties of glasses also produces tantalising prospects of practical applications of new materials.
"This work could have a lasting impact on both frontiers of knowledge."
The study was funded by Wuhan University of Technology, Hubei, China, where Professor Greaves has been elected Strategic Scientist and awarded a million pound grant to develop the physics of the Extreme Glassy State.
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