Plastic is quite a bit simpler to work with than glass, which is among the causes it is used a lot extra typically. That could also be about to vary, although, due to a brand new course of that enables glass to be injection-molded – similar to plastic.
The technology was developed by a staff at Germany’s University of Freiburg, led by Drs. Bastian E. Rapp and Frederick Kotz. It’s being commercialized below the identify of Glassomer.
The course of begins with small polymer granules, every one in every of which has tiny silica glass particles dispersed inside it. These granules are poured into a normal injection molding machine which melts them, after which injects the molten polymer right into a mould. Once the polymer has cooled and hardened, the merchandise is ejected out of the mould. At this level, it nonetheless appears to be like prefer it’s made of normal plastic.
After being washed in water and positioned in a 600 ºC (1,112 ºF) oven, nonetheless, all the polymer is washed out or burned away – this leaves solely the linked glass particles behind. When the merchandise is then heated to 1,300 ºC (2,372 ºF), these particles fuse collectively by way of a course of often called sintering, forming a pure quartz glass completed product.
“The particles basically smoothly flow into each other,” Kotz tells us. “The component however stays in shape and just shrinks by a factor of around 15 percent in each direction.”
Not solely does the technology probably enable for advanced, detailed objects to be shortly made out of glass in giant portions, nevertheless it additionally would not require the two,000 ºC (3,632 ºF) temperature that is required to soften common glass – this implies it is significantly extra power environment friendly than typical glass-good manufacturing strategies. And as an added bonus, the polymer binder that’s washed out of the objects will be reused.
“For decades, glass has often been the second choice when it comes to materials in manufacturing processes because its formation is too complicated, energy-intensive and unsuitable for producing high-resolution structures,” says Rapp. “Polymers, on the other hand, allow all of this, but their physical, optical, chemical and thermal properties are inferior to glass. As a result, we have combined polymer and glass processing. Our process will allow us to quickly and cost-effectively replace both mass-produced products and complex polymer structures and components with glass.”
The new technique is described in a paper that was not too long ago printed within the journal Science.
Sources: University of Freiburg, Glassomer, American Association for the Advancement of Science by way of EurekAlert