TOKYO—Researchers at Tokyo Institute of Technology have developed a new form of “rubber-like” glass that may have applications in high temperature or strongly oxidative environments
Flexible substances that can withstand high temperatures are desirable for various industrial and engineering applications. Types of glass made from oxides are hard at room temperature and fracture easily, but scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology and Asahi Glass Co. Ltd in Yokohama have uncovered a certain kind of oxide glass—so-called mixed alkali metaphosphate glass—that behaves differently when it is stretched from a super-cooled liquid state.
Seiji Inaba, Setsuro Ito and Hideo Hosono study oxide glasses that possess structures similar to those of organic rubbers, consisting of soft, long, straight chain molecules. The team discovered that metaphosphate glass expands and contracts rather like rubber at a temperature close to the “glass transition temperature” (the point at which glass changes state from a super-cooled liquid to a solid).
The researchers stretched a super-cooled, metaphosphate glass made from mixed alkali metals—lithium, sodium, potassium, cesium and phosphorus oxide. Upon heating and elongation, the straight chain molecules in the glass became highly orientated, and the glass itself became rubber-like. When researchers heated the glass more, it contracted in size by several tens of percent, before returning to its original unordered molecular state. This property, known as ‘entropic elasticity,' is the first time that a type of glass has been shown to display it.
Rubber-like oxide glass such as this could be considered for applications in high temperature, oxidizing environments in which organic polymer rubber could not cope. The results of the group's research appear in the online edition of the magazine Nature Materials, published on Dec. 2.
Inaba and his team conducted experiments with a mixed alkali metal metaphosphate glass that is isotropic, hard and easily fractured at room temperature, in the same way as normal glass. However, when it is heated to the vicinity of the glass transition point and then cooled in a stretched state, the glass becomes anisotropic—its physical properties become directionally dependent—due to the orientation of the straight chains.
When the metaphosphate glass undergoes heat treatment, it shrinks up to 35 percent, but there is no change in volume. Furthermore, while many materials such as ordinary glass, ceramics and metals, are exothermic when contracted due to heat, the glass developed by the team is endothermic when it contracts.
Metaphosphate glass, whose structure resembles that of organic rubber, exhibits a degree of contraction never seen before in oxide glass. It displays great anisotropy due to its straight chain orientation and reverts to its original structure when released.