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Globally rare molten glass research nets student industry award

Jun 2, 2022
3 min Read
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Molten glass in liquid form

A graduate student researcher at Creighton University bested almost 40 competitors May 23 during the annual meeting of the Glass and Optical Materials Division of the American Ceramic Society in Baltimore.

A poster by Harsh Uppala, BS’21, who is pursuing a Master of Science in Medical Physics, took first place in the graduate student division of a competition sponsored by Corning Glass. Using light-scattering techniques, often used to analyze the properties of surfaces, Uppala investigated glass in its liquid form at high temperatures.

David Sidebottom, PhD, professor of physics at Creighton, says the Creighton research group from which Uppala’s poster emerged, is one of just two worldwide that routinely use dynamic light scattering to study molten oxide glasses. The second, he said, is located on the island of Crete, Greece, under the direction of Spyros Yannopoulos, principal researcher at the FORTH Institute.

(Uppala’s) work provides better insight into the complex dynamics of molten glass just near the temperatures where glass begins to solidify.
— David Sidebottom, PhD

The rarity of the research, Sidebottom says, stems from the challenging nature of the measurements (often above 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit) but also the weak scattering the materials produce and their inherent instability to crystallization.

The work, he says, provides better insight into the complex dynamics of molten glass just near the temperatures where glass begins to solidify. Uppala’s poster detailed changes in these dynamics related to common changes in the chemical composition of the glass. Better understanding of that process could help manufacturers manage the processing of glass products from the melt stage, Sidebottom says.

Studying the properties of glass in its liquid state poses challenges different from glass at lower temperatures, Uppala says.

“Working on glass in its solid phase presents many interesting research topics,” he says. “Our work's focus on the liquid phase seeks to understand the fundamental properties of the glass. It started as an investigation into how the structure of the glass changes and interacts with thermodynamic processes, and later turned into an investigation of how ions move within our glass.”

Harsh Uppala and other research honorees
Creighton’s Harsh Uppala, left, poses for a photo with student researchers honored at the annual meeting of the Glass and Optical Materials Division of the American Ceramic Society in Baltimore.

The 124-year-old American Ceramic Society, which is a nonprofit professional organization for the ceramics industry, focuses on scientific research and emerging technologies. This year’s competition, according to the ACS website, was especially significant since the United Nations has declared 2022 “The International Year of Glass.”

The conference offered students an opportunity to attend a career roundtable discussion with scientists from industry, national laboratories and academia.