A window or mug glass may shatter quite easily, but solid glass is actually much tougher and stronger than it technically should be, given its molecular structure.
Now, scientists are close to uncovering the source of this secret power.
Using a newly invented computer model to see how atomic particles in glass can hold them together, despite their lack of a conventionally arranged structure, a new study notes that these particles can put the force-carrying backbones in place before the glass cools completely from a non-sticky state stable.
Calculations showed that the skeleton of the particles that take on stress within the viscous glass succeeded in meeting the percolation threshold – the point at which this particle network is dense enough to support the material and keep it strong.
When a granular material is pressed too much it forms a solid – think of compacting sand grains, for example – researchers describe the resulting solid As a jammer system. These systems bear some similarities to what happens in cooling glass, and the team used their computer model to compare the two.
“At zero temperature, the jammed system will exhibit long-term associations in stress due to its internal filtering network,” Physicist Hua Tong saysFrom Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China.
“This simulation showed that the same was true of the glass even before it had cooled completely.”
The glass is part of a group Amorphous solids Which lacks the natural long-range arrangement and lattice pattern in its atoms and molecules that are found in crystals, despite being strong in cryogenic form.
Instead, a small percentage of total molecules take on stress, amid the general chaos and disruption, from a microscopic perspective. However, those force-carrying particles need to be diffused or filtered far enough through the material first, and this study sheds light on how this leaching occurs during the passage of the material. Vitreous shift.
Scientists demonstrate that the particles in this critical network must be bound by at least two strong bonds, at which point a network can form that connects the entire system together – even if most of the molecular arrangement is disturbed.
Glass is one of the most fascinating materials for scientists, not least because it changes a lot depending on whether it is heated or cooled. It may even represent a new state of matter at extremely low temperatures.
Studies have even shown that glass appears to defy the laws of thermodynamics, confusing scientific predictions about how it should behave under certain conditions. All these results make the study of glass not just about glass itself, but about everything we understand to be true in physics.
The development of tougher, stiffer, and long-lasting glass is beneficial in all types of products, from cookware to smartphones, and researchers hope their findings will lead to new and practical innovations for this material, as well as more detailed laboratory tests.
“Our findings may open a path towards a better understanding of amorphous solids from a mechanical perspective,” Physicist Hajime Tanaka saysFrom the University of Tokyo.
The research has been published in Nature Communications.