Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

DoE Develops Flexible Glass Stronger Than Steel

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the whale-tested,-scotsman-approved dept.

Science 242

An anonymous reader writes "The Department of Energy Office of Science recently collaborated with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the California Institute of Technology to develop a resilient yet malleable new type of glass that is stronger than steel. The material can also be molded, and it bends when subjected to stress instead of shattering. The glass is actually a microalloy and features metallic elements such as palladium. This metal has a high 'bulk-to-shear' stiffness ratio that counteracts the intrinsic brittleness of glassy materials. The team that developed the material believes that by changing various ratios, they could make it even stronger."

cancel ×

242 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Scottie's here! (3, Interesting)

wcrowe (94389) | more than 3 years ago | (#34907554)

Awesome!

Re:Scottie's here! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34907566)

Transparent Aluminium!!!

Re:Scottie's here! (5, Funny)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 3 years ago | (#34908012)

I had a guy here who could explain just how this stuff worked, but he just couldn't handle using the mouse, and his accent was just too bad for my voice recognization software to handle.

Re:Scottie's here! (1)

Talderas (1212466) | more than 3 years ago | (#34907794)

It's been compared to steel....

So is this more a case of Star Trek winning (transparent aluminum) or Star Wars winning (transparisteel)?

Scotty was wrong! (1)

Fujisawa Sensei (207127) | more than 3 years ago | (#34908018)

It's been compared to steel....

So is this more a case of Star Trek winning (transparent aluminum) or Star Wars winning (transparisteel)?

They both lose.

The initial samples of the new metallic glass were microalloys of palladium with phosphorous, silicon and germanium that yielded glass rods approximately one millimeter in diameter. Adding silver to the mix enabled the Cal Tech researchers to expand the thickness of the glass rods to six millimeters.

No steel/iron or aluminum at all in the mixture, at least according to the article.. :-)

Obligatory... (5, Funny)

drumcat (1659893) | more than 3 years ago | (#34907558)

Transparent Aluminum!?!

Re:Obligatory... (1)

peragrin (659227) | more than 3 years ago | (#34907600)

Better
Transparent Palladium

next up Palladium arc reactors

Re:Obligatory... (2)

MouseR (3264) | more than 3 years ago | (#34908112)

Screw that. I`m waiting for transparent mythril.

Re:Obligatory... (1)

Solar Granulation (1943072) | more than 3 years ago | (#34907614)

Aw, you beat me to it!

Re:Obligatory... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34907748)

Actually the story is "from the whale-tested,-scotsman-approved dept.", so Soulskill beat you both to it.

Re:Obligatory... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34907722)

If I recall, transparent aluminum was developed a few years ago....

Yup: "(PhysOrg.com) -- Oxford scientists have created a transparent form of aluminium by bombarding the metal with the world’s most powerful soft X-ray laser. 'Transparent aluminium' previously only existed in science fiction, featuring in the movie Star Trek IV, but the real material is an exotic new state of matter with implications for planetary science and nuclear fusion."

Re:Obligatory... (3, Informative)

Zediker (885207) | more than 3 years ago | (#34907782)

Transparent aluminum is called sapphire, its existed for millenia.

Re:Obligatory... (5, Insightful)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 3 years ago | (#34907938)

Because hydrogen and water are the same.

Re:Obligatory... (2)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 3 years ago | (#34907796)

Thats exactly what I was thinking, heh, Sci-Fi comes up with the idea, engineers make it happen. I love that combination.

They only needed the aluminim transparent... (4, Interesting)

starglider29a (719559) | more than 3 years ago | (#34907984)

...for the cameras. The whales wouldn't care. They spend lots of time in the dark. And besides, which would make you feel better? magically appearing in a black void? Or looking out and seeing the insides of a Bird of Prey?

Re:They only needed the aluminim transparent... (4, Informative)

sycodon (149926) | more than 3 years ago | (#34908206)

I would bet no fish (yeah...mammal, I know) wants to see the inside of a Pird of Prey.

Re:They only needed the aluminim transparent... (2)

Conspiracy_Of_Doves (236787) | more than 3 years ago | (#34908226)

They also needed something to trade to the guy in order to get the tank walls.

Re:They only needed the aluminim transparent... (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34908398)

The tank walls were not transparent aluminum. They were plexiglass or the like (the movie specified thickness and all). The transparent aluminum was delivered to the "past" via a formula on the computer. It would have taken them years to go from that to huge sheets of the stuff.

Re:Obligatory... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34908036)

Thought that was velcrome?

Re:Obligatory... (2)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 3 years ago | (#34908042)

Who cares? Wake me up when I can talk into my mouse, dammit!

Re:Obligatory... (4, Insightful)

Low Ranked Craig (1327799) | more than 3 years ago | (#34908150)

You can talk to it now. DOesn't mean anything is going to happen though.

Re:Obligatory... (1)

mseeger (40923) | more than 3 years ago | (#34908300)

Yeah, my favorite slashdot story zombie

Re:Obligatory... (0)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 3 years ago | (#34908522)

Transparent Aluminum!?!

Raise your hand if you saw this one coming...

"Transparent aluminum!?" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34907568)

"That's the ticket, laddie!"

I was hoping (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34907570)

That it would be made with Aluminum. You see, I've got these whales I need to transport....

Mr. Scott (1)

buzzsport (558426) | more than 3 years ago | (#34907574)

That's nothing. It's transparent aluminum we're all waiting for.

Re:Mr. Scott (4, Informative)

zrbyte (1666979) | more than 3 years ago | (#34907760)

Would everyone just stop for a moment. If something is a glass (is in a glassy, amorphous state) it only means that it lacks long range crystallographic order. IT DOESN'T NEED TO BE TRANSPARENT TO BE A GLASS!! For example glassy metals. [wikipedia.org]

Re:Mr. Scott (4, Funny)

RJHelms (1554807) | more than 3 years ago | (#34907814)

Buzzkill.

Re:Mr. Scott (1)

zrbyte (1666979) | more than 3 years ago | (#34908044)

Sorry for the shouting.

Re:Mr. Scott (2)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 3 years ago | (#34907854)

That's too bad. I was really hoping to be able to get a see-thru scuba tank.

Re:Mr. Scott (2)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#34908034)

That's too bad. I was really hoping to be able to get a see-thru scuba tank.

That would be different.

Of course, what you really need is a double-walled one with fake fish in between the layers or something like a snowglobe. :-P

Re:Mr. Scott (5, Funny)

WGFCrafty (1062506) | more than 3 years ago | (#34908520)

This would be useful for visually seeing how much air is left.

Re:Mr. Scott (1)

The Great Pretender (975978) | more than 3 years ago | (#34908408)

I appreciate your sentiment, but it's a press release, not a scientific paper. It's meant to drum up interest in those who don't have a grand education (forced or self-taught) in these areas. Sometimes we just have to leave our high-dork-horse at home and appreciate the coolness of the development.

Re:Mr. Scott (1)

Gilmoure (18428) | more than 3 years ago | (#34907858)

So the remake of Barbararella...

Re:Mr. Scott (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 3 years ago | (#34907906)

Ahem [wikipedia.org]

I was excited at first (1)

Aerorae (1941752) | more than 3 years ago | (#34907590)

for the iPhone 5, and then I saw how much it costs. (Palladium turns out to be rather expensive)

Re:I was excited at first (5, Funny)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 3 years ago | (#34907636)

High costs in no way should discourage Apple customers by now.

Re:I was excited at first (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34907784)

No, but high raw materials costs would discourage Apple, Inc.

Re:I was excited at first (2, Insightful)

Bing Tsher E (943915) | more than 3 years ago | (#34907804)

High cost encourages Apple customers.

Captain Obvious Says (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34907610)

This would be great for skyscrapers.

Re:Captain Obvious Says (1)

EsbenMoseHansen (731150) | more than 3 years ago | (#34907638)

for the very rich, if it takes much Pa

Will it rust? (1)

intellitech (1912116) | more than 3 years ago | (#34907642)

If it didn't, that would be great encouragement to find a faster, cheaper manufacturing method.

Re:Will it rust? (1)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 3 years ago | (#34907734)

Only if there's iron in it.

Re:Will it rust? (0)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 3 years ago | (#34908322)

All metals rust. Iron rust just has that distinctive red/orange colour.

Or are you being pedantic, and just going by the most common usage of the term "rust"? If so, I guess it would be more correct to say that "all metals corrode/oxidize", but the result is the same.

Re:Will it rust? (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 3 years ago | (#34907856)

I just wonder how heavy it is, the article doesn't seem to mention anything about that. Though of course even if it's very heavy it would probably be good for armour plating.

Re:Will it rust? (1)

Lashat (1041424) | more than 3 years ago | (#34908014)

Weight doesn't matter in space, only problem is getting it there. Moonbase anyone?

Re:Will it rust? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34908056)

Can you imagine a transparent tank? Imagine, the enemy fires at you with his rifle and then you can laugh and give them the finger.

Re:Will it rust? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34908494)

No, it will just bloat the already out of control defense budget to the point where the nation is bankrupted.

"Stronger Than Steel" overrated? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34907654)

In the scheme of things with modern alloys, etc, is "Stronger Than Steel" that much of a claim these days? Sure for "glass" its impressive, but overall, is the phrase overused?

Re:"Stronger Than Steel" overrated? (5, Informative)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#34908064)

In the scheme of things with modern alloys, etc, is "Stronger Than Steel" that much of a claim these days? Sure for "glass" its impressive, but overall, is the phrase overused?

As a metalworker, I can assure you it is a meaningless marketing phrase due to the extreme range of commercially available steel.

Looking just at yield strength, cheapest crappiest low carbon hotroll from China (with embedded spark plugs and chunks of furnace slag included at no extra charge) maybe 20 or so kpsi on a really good day. Lets just say for man-rating purposes you design with Chinese steel around 5 kpsi, and even then you have nervous sleeping. Relatively exotic Northern European specialty steel mill product maybe mid 200s kpsi. So way over one order of magnitude.

Complicating it more, do you mean strength like per unit mass, where exotic non-iron alloys have beaten steels for decades, or per unit volume, where very little even approaches steel?

Standard slashdot car analogy... Steel strength varies like engine size, you know, from 50 cc mopeds up to 12 liter sports car engines. Steel strength does not vary like commuter car MPG, all of which are about 30 MPG.

Re:"Stronger Than Steel" overrated? (1)

Eponymous Coward (6097) | more than 3 years ago | (#34908294)

I was wondering about this myself. I'm guessing that since they don't qualify their statement, their glass alloy must be strong under tensile, compressive, and shearing stresses at all temperatures and pressures when compared with any commercially available steel or steel alloy.

Impressive stuff.

Alas... (5, Insightful)

Solar Granulation (1943072) | more than 3 years ago | (#34907656)

It is NOT transparent.

Re:Alas... (1)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 3 years ago | (#34908028)

It is NOT transparent.

And, that's what makes Transparent Aluminum so special!

How can you tell? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34908080)

Forgive the stupid question, but how can you tell? I don't see any mention of opacity/transparency in the articles, and the only picture of the stuff is a micrograph.

Captcha was "shatters."

Re:Alas... (1)

ThunderBird89 (1293256) | more than 3 years ago | (#34908146)

What most people miss is that glasses need not be transparent. Being a glass only means it's amorphous, without an ordered crystalline structure, that confers unique properties. It does NOT mean, however, that the material passes light in any way.

So... (1)

Securityemo (1407943) | more than 3 years ago | (#34907674)

Archologies or "mini-archologies", anyone?

The beasties seem happy to see you, Doctor.... (1)

DanCentury (110562) | more than 3 years ago | (#34907684)

I hope you like our little aquarium.
 

Re:The beasties seem happy to see you, Doctor.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34907830)

Yet another Star Trek reference. A half a dozen Star Trek references later on this thread and I'm wishing to go back in time and assassinate Gene Roddenberry.

Yeah, yeah, I'll highjack an Klingon bird of prey, zip around the Sun while experiencing a space induced acid trip: seeing whales and hearing whale songs, and appearing in 1963 and shooting him him screaming in a guttural voice, "Kapla!"

Prior art (1)

Simon Rowe (1206316) | more than 3 years ago | (#34907718)

Glasssteel spell, see PHB.

Re:Prior art (1)

xMrFishx (1956084) | more than 3 years ago | (#34907896)

When cast by alchemists has the ability to also turn money into less money.

Can I throw stones in a house made of this? (4, Funny)

Nkwe (604125) | more than 3 years ago | (#34907746)

Just asking.

Re:Can I throw stones in a house made of this? (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#34907818)

Can I throw stones in a house made of this? Just asking.

You always could (for specific versions of 'could').

The adage is that "those who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones" -- it pertains to hypocrisy.

Re:Can I throw stones in a house made of this? (1)

Gilmoure (18428) | more than 3 years ago | (#34907874)

Not to mention your stuff inside is likely to be somewhat breakable.

Re:Can I throw stones in a house made of this? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34907912)

Yes, but if you throw like a girl your neighbors will see.

Re:Can I throw stones in a house made of this? (3, Insightful)

Lashat (1041424) | more than 3 years ago | (#34908030)

You CAN, but you SHOULDn't.

Re:Can I throw stones in a house made of this? (1)

Abstrackt (609015) | more than 3 years ago | (#34908304)

Yes, but you should still change in the basement.

Re:Can I throw stones in a house made of this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34908324)

sure. you don't need DoD-SuperGlass(tm) for that.

Re:Can I throw stones in a house made of this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34908372)

It's not transparent, so you probably would want to attempt to make a hole or two so you can actually see out.

People who live in glass houses... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34907846)

can apparently throw as many stones as they'd like!

Starwars here we go! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34907922)

Did anybody say Glasteel http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Glasteel !!
Fantastic - first step's first...
Now we only need mutating genes to mime Wookies like tourettes guy... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5VazvsPT66s
God I love the Internet. /Richo

DoE, Berkeley? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34907924)

Aren't we overdue for another edition of "US Science and Research is falling behind!!1"? Been a while since the last one. Weeks, at least.

Transparent Alumnium: "How do we know he didn't... (0)

DontScotty (978874) | more than 3 years ago | (#34907968)

"How do we know he didn't invent the thing?"

This happened 4 years ago (4, Informative)

tyrione (134248) | more than 3 years ago | (#34907972)

The real mystery was uncovered at John Hopkins University:

Remember? http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/01/060126190325.htm [sciencedaily.com]

The metallic glass research was funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. Along with Sheng and Ma, the authors of the Nature article included Weikun Luo, a Johns Hopkins doctoral student in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering; F. M Alamgir of the National Institute of Standards and Technology; and J. M. Bai of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

This news today is the next step in bringing these realities to market. Bravo to them all.

Re:This happened 4 years ago (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34908314)

They are a long way from market still - if anyone cares to RTFA.

What does stronger than steel actually mean? (2, Insightful)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | more than 3 years ago | (#34907988)

What does stronger than steel actually mean? A spider web is stronger than steel, but I walk through them all the time. A diamond is stronger than steel, but I can hit it with a hammer and it smashes. Stronger than steel sounds good, but just like foods that say they are all natural, doesn't mean anything.

Re:What does stronger than steel actually mean? (3, Informative)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 3 years ago | (#34908086)

Diamond ranks high on hardness, not strength (diamond used to be high point of hardness scale, but I think they have since discovered harder substances) What we usually refer to as strength is tensile strength, the point at which it breaks when you try to stretch it. Spider webs have a very high tensile strength for their cross sectional area. You "walk though them all the time" because the strands have a very small cross sectional area -- you could also walk through strands of steel of the same diameter. So all they are saying is that a strand of this new "glass" will withstand greater force than a strand of steel of the same diameter.

Re:What does stronger than steel actually mean? (4, Informative)

amliebsch (724858) | more than 3 years ago | (#34908100)

Diamonds are harder than steel, not stronger. Spider silk is stronger than steel, but not nearly as hard. (And incredibly thin.) This implies that a cable made of spider silk should be able to withstand more strain than a steel cable of the same size. On the other hand, a bridge supported by spider silk trusses will be far less sturdy than one made from steel trusses.

Re:What does stronger than steel actually mean? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34908132)

What does stronger than steel actually mean? A spider web is stronger than steel, but I walk through them all the time. A diamond is stronger than steel, but I can hit it with a hammer and it smashes. Stronger than steel sounds good, but just like foods that say they are all natural, doesn't mean anything.

Bullshit... there are different types of strength.
A spider web has a higher bulk tensile strength than steel, but it's so flexible that when one walks through it it will tear. Furthermore, spider silk is incredibly thin, and a wire the diameter of a strand of spider silk made out of steel would likely have similar tensile strength to the strand of spider silk.
A diamond is not stronger than steel, it is harder than steel. In other words, a diamond will scratch a piece of steel when they are put in contact with one another. Also, diamonds are brittle, so they aren't very good on the compressive strength front.

Re:What does stronger than steel actually mean? (5, Informative)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#34908200)

What does stronger than steel actually mean?

Depends on your industry, but often, tensile strength per unit area. In the us that would be thousands of pounds pulling apart a chunk of steel of one square inch cross section. This is kind of important in the wire rope and chain industries, on the other hand piston makers or knife makers might have an alternative opinion. Anyway tensile KPSI values 20 and under is junk tier like Walmart China products, 50 is the good stuff, and over 200 is strange Swedish alloys made by gnomes in a secretive process that costs about as much per pound as sterling silver and only .mil can afford it.

For marketing / PR purposes, yes it means nothing. Just like calling machined parts "billet" means absolutely nothing. A billet used to be a slight step up from an ingot that you'd smoosh in a forge press before machining. Now all it means is its overpriced and probably shiny.

Re:What does stronger than steel actually mean? (1)

amRadioHed (463061) | more than 3 years ago | (#34908232)

It's not a meaningless statement. Spider silk is stronger then steel... it's also remarkably thin. A spider web made of steel strands that were only 3 microns thick would also be easy to walk through. Strength is also different from toughness. Things like diamonds which can not withstand sharp impacts are not tough, but they can still be strong.

Re:What does stronger than steel actually mean? (1)

Facegarden (967477) | more than 3 years ago | (#34908394)

What does stronger than steel actually mean? A spider web is stronger than steel, but I walk through them all the time. A diamond is stronger than steel, but I can hit it with a hammer and it smashes. Stronger than steel sounds good, but just like foods that say they are all natural, doesn't mean anything.

Umm, what? Strength is usually "Tensile Strength", which is expressed in relation to the cross sectional area. Spider webs are extremely thin, so they're not that strong. I think just about everyone knows that smaller thinner things are weaker. That's why we can crumble aluminum foil in our hands, but Audi can still make car frames out of aluminum, or why bridges are made of steel but I can bend a paper-clip with my fingers...

What world do you live in where it isn't perfectly obvious why something that is extremely thin, even if made from a strong material, would be weak?
-Taylor

Re:What does stronger than steel actually mean? (2)

vinng86 (1978262) | more than 3 years ago | (#34908406)

The article summary, as usual, is incorrect. The article itself is much MUCH more accurate because the summary fails to make the distincting between strength and toughness.

Strength generally refers to the yield strength which is the highest point on the elastic portion of a stress strain curve. Beyond that stress the material undergoes plastic deformation which means it'll be deformed even when the stress is removed. Toughness refers to the amount of energy that can be absorbed by the material before it breaks completely (i.e. tugging on a rope till it breaks). This is the entire area under the stress-strain curve. The two are NOT the same.

Most materials are either high strength or high toughness. Glass for example has very high strength but very little toughness. As such when it yields it simply shatters. Strength on the other hand has lower strength but more toughness - it absorbs a great deal more energy before fracture which makes it ideal for buildings (you want to have enough of a warning before your building collapses!).

So to answer your question, yes a lot of materials are stronger than steel but they are often brittle which is NOT ideal for building bridges out of them. This article summary fails to mention it because the OP thinks strength is the same as toughness but he/she is completely wrong. The material in question has both strength AND toughness (due, I think to the way it handles crack propogation) that makes it have a strength and toughness ratio that is better than steel. That'll make it a much better building material. Steel will probably still be used however, since it doesn't require palladium o_o

Re:What does stronger than steel actually mean? (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 3 years ago | (#34908418)

FTFA demonstrating a strength and toughness beyond that of any known material meaning it is both rigid and non-brittle.

useful for cars...? (1)

hesaigo999ca (786966) | more than 3 years ago | (#34908006)

Might be good for windshields for cars in case of crashes, where they would not break....or could they still break if the impact was big enough???

Re:useful for cars...? (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#34908114)

or could they still break if the impact was big enough???

I'm sure given a big enough impact, anything would break. (Short of a #2 General Dynamics hull that is.)

I think for cars it's a combination of not sending shards all over the place, and allowing for some give to absorb the impact. I suspect if everything was too rigid, much more force gets transferred to the occupants.

DoE interest? (2)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 3 years ago | (#34908050)

I'm curious, does anyone have links to any resources which might explain the Department of Energy's involvement? Not that DoE can't be involved in basic materials research, but I suppose that they must have some sort of energy-related application in mind for such a material. I'm curious how this might advance energy?

I can imagine a LOT of potential uses for it, but a lot of those uses also would rely on other properties (not just strength), from structural, to piping, to casting boilers/reactors/turbines out of the material, to creating energy storage flywheels, storage containers for used nuclear fuel, etc, which all seem like a stronger material might be useful, but I honestly don't know enough to evaluate whether those would actually be potential uses for such a material? Is there some *particular* need for which steel is currently used, but steel is considered not as good a material as they actually need?

Re:DoE interest? (1)

nschubach (922175) | more than 3 years ago | (#34908516)

My guess is that they invested to find a material that could be used for energy, but found one that had structural benefit. I don't find it surprising really, advances in science happen across a broad range of fields and uses (ie: Radar -> Kitchen cooking tool)

Remember Aerogel? (4, Interesting)

snsh (968808) | more than 3 years ago | (#34908108)

Twenty years ago, we though NASA's aerogel was going to be everywhere today. It promised the light-transmission and strength of regular glass, while being literally light as a feather and the best thermal insulator known to man. It seemed like eventually you could build entire houses out of this stuff.

Today, aerogel is nowhere to be found as a structural material, probably because it's so expensive. They do put pulverized aerogel into shoe insoles as insulation for mountain climbing, and you can buy a gumball-sized chunk of aerogel on eBay for USD$20 or so. I still wonder why nobody ever managed to get the cost down.

Aerogel as building material? (1)

handy_vandal (606174) | more than 3 years ago | (#34908276)

Aerogel is so light and fluffy, you can easily crush it between two fingers. That's my understanding, anyway (I haven't actually touched the stuff).

Re:Remember Aerogel? (5, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#34908432)

Twenty years ago, we though NASA's aerogel was going to be everywhere today. It promised the light-transmission and strength of regular glass, while being literally light as a feather and the best thermal insulator known to man. It seemed like eventually you could build entire houses out of this stuff.

First of all its a general class of materials, its a gel (think jello) with the bulk substrate removed (think dehydrated jello). So its like talking about making stuff out of "metal" as opposed to "SAE 316L certified steel".

The second thing is its been around in some form or another for about 80 years now, not 20.

The third thing is all the manufacturing processes (as far as I know) involve replacing the substrate with supercritical solvent and venting out the solvent. Which, given typical supercritical vapor pressures, usually means the manufacturing plant occasionally blows up. An easy thing to remember is supercritical CO2 needs equipment built to a hundred bar. The actual number is closer to 70, but whatever, "a hundred" is easier to remember...

Standard slashdot car analogy, your car tires run about 2 bar, and mechanics at tire shops regularly get killed when they're inflated and they blow apart, tire cages or not. So to make an aerogel the size of a car tire, you need to inflate / deflate a tank running about 50 or so times the pressure. Your average greasemonkey would probably not retire with a pension from an aerogel factory.

I believe the sweeds blew a factory completely up in the 80s. Pressure vessel failures are such a PITA.

Also the process is inherently batch. Every modern industry relies on constant process, from steel to ipod assembly lines. Not gonna have widespread aerogel until someone figures out a continuous flow process.

Go, Scotty! (1)

seanmcelroy (207852) | more than 3 years ago | (#34908126)

Heck yeah, I see someone went back in time to give us the formula for transparent aluminum! :)

So, people in glass houses (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 3 years ago | (#34908134)

... CAN throw rocks?

Gorilla Glass beaten by unbreakable Godzilla Glass (1)

D4C5CE (578304) | more than 3 years ago | (#34908170)

Unfortunately its ingredients also make it an almost unaffordable unobtainium for now, with the first applications expected small enough to crown ... neither your house nor your next iPhone, but (according to Technology Review) probably your teeth [technologyreview.com] for a lifetime.

hmm (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 3 years ago | (#34908230)

I thought the Slashdot Consensus(tm) was that the government never invents anything ever as an absolute rule with no deviation.

Ahem. Transparent Aluminum has already been done. (3, Informative)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 3 years ago | (#34908266)

Sorry to ruin your trekky fantasies, but we already have transparent aluminum.

There is an article about it here [howstuffworks.com] , and many more if you search.

Admittedly, it was developed after the movie.

Not SiO2 glass (4, Informative)

pz (113803) | more than 3 years ago | (#34908306)

When most people say the word, "glass," they mean something that's usually clear, usually brittle, usually an electrical insulator, has poor thermal conductivity, and is mostly impervious to solvents. Stuff like what's used to make windowpanes and drinking glasses. The main material in these is silicon dioxide (SiO2), and the "glass" refers to the fact that it is not a crystal, but an unordered solid. SiO2 crystals are called quartz. Note that most glass, using the vernacular meaning, is not microcrystalline, but truly unordered. This is what gives SiO2 glass, using the scientific meaning, some of its interesting properties, like the lack of a fixed melting point. Wax can often (not always, but often) be thought of as a hydrocarbon glass. Many plastics are also glasssy because they are amorphous at the molecular level as well.

The glass referred to in the article is a metallic glass, and is not transparent. The reason glassy metals are interesting is because of their unusual mechanical properties. The reason they are difficult to make is that when metal cools, it really, really, really likes to form crystals. The only way to get metals to form unordered glassy substances is to cool them extraordinarily quickly, essentially freezing each atom in its location from the liquid modality. Recent research, such as used in the linked article, has developed alloys that don't require extraordinary cooling rates, but still result in an unordered solid.

Airports??? (2)

Gravitas26 (1978270) | more than 3 years ago | (#34908446)

Brings up an interesting new concern for Airport Screening! Transparent and Stronger then Steel! Hmmmmm...

Well, I suppose (1)

CrazyDuke (529195) | more than 3 years ago | (#34908478)

I suppose this explains why the price of palladium [kitco.com] has nearly doubled over the past six months. I wonder if this was public knowledge and Slashdot was just behind the curve as usual or not.

Last week's news again (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34908482)

Nothing here. Subject line says it all.

They can only make thin rods at this point. (2)

nuckfuts (690967) | more than 3 years ago | (#34908518)

The initial samples of the new metallic glass... yielded glass rods approximately one millimeter in diameter. Adding silver to the mix enabled the Cal Tech researchers to expand the thickness of the glass rods to six millimeters.

So it's not as though they're making windows panes out of this stuff, but it's interesting nonetheless. The way they create an amorphous structure is fascinating:

The size of the metallic glass is limited by the need to rapidly cool or “quench” the liquid metals for the final amorphous structure. The rule of thumb is that to make a metallic glass we need to have at least five elements so that when we quench the material, it doesn’t know what crystal structure to form and defaults to amorphous.

It sounds as though innovations in the quenching process might enable larger shapes, or perhaps even sheets, to be produced.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>