Prof's new theory explains the mysterious nature of glass

Date: 12 September 2008
Archaeological evidence suggests that glass was first made in the Middle East sometime around 3000 B.C. However, almost 5,000 years later, scientists are still perplexed about how glassy materials make the transition from a molten state to a solid.

Richard Wool, professor of chemical engineering at UD, thinks he has the answer.

In a paper to be published later this year in the Journal of Polymer Science Part B: Polymer Physics, Wool documents a new conceptual approach, known as the Twinkling Fractal Theory (TFT), to understanding the nature and structure of the glass transition in amorphous materials. The theory provides a quantitative way of describing a phenomenon that was previously explained from a strictly empirical perspective.

“The TFT enables a number of predictions of universal behavior to be made about glassy materials of all sorts, including polymers, metals and ceramics,” Wool says.

What distinguishes glasses from other materials is that even after hardening, they retain the molecular disorder of a liquid. In contrast, other liquids--for example, water--assume an ordered crystal pattern when they harden. Glass does not undergo such a neat phase transition; rather, the molecules simply slow down gradually until they are stuck in an odd state somewhere between a liquid and a solid.

Another difference between glasses and more conventional materials is that their transition from the liquid to the solid state does not occur at a standard temperature, like that of water to ice, but instead is rate-dependent: the more rapid the cooling, the higher the glass transition temperature.

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600450 Prof's new theory explains the mysterious nature of glass
Date: 12 September 2008

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