A new technology could make it possible to produce and use high-quality glass materials in place of polymers. The innovation, known as Glassomer, could be used in optical, photonic, medical, and industrial applications.
Glassomer is a solid nanocomposite that can be structured using polymer molding and subtractive technologies at submicrometer resolution. After polymer processing, Glassomer is turned into optical-grade fused silica glass during a final heat treatment. According to its inventors, the resulting glass has the same optical transparency as commercial fused silica and a smooth surface with a roughness of a few nanometers.
Scientists at Karlsruher Institute of Technology (KIT) mixed glass particles, 40 nm each, with a liquid polymer. The mix can be hardened to a solid through heating or exposure to light. In the Glassomer, the solid nanoparticles will make up roughly 60 percent of the total volume. The rest is organic binder. The polymer acts like a bonding agent, maintaining the matrix of glass particles and thus the shape of the material.