June 24, 2024

New Glass has Half the Carbon Footprint and 10 times the Strength of Regular Glass

Researchers have unveiled a new material called LionGlass that promises to halve the carbon footprint of standard soda lime silicate glass. It is also at least 10 times as crack-resistant as regular glass. The new material could be revolutionary.

The new glass reduced the carbon footprint in two ways. Regular glass is made by fusing three components: quartz sand, soda ash, and limestone. Soda ash is sodium carbonate, and limestone is calcium carbonate. When they melt, the carbonates break apart, releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. These components are eliminated in LionGlass.

But the main greenhouse gas emissions come from the actual melting. It takes a lot of energy to reach the temperatures to melt the sand, ash and limestone together. LionGlass can be produced at lower temperatures, and by cutting the temperature by 300 to 400°C (540 to 720°F) energy consumption is reduced by 30 percent.

“Our goal is to make glass manufacturing sustainable for the long term,” lead researcher John Mauro, Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Penn State, said in a statement statement. “LionGlass eliminates the use of carbon-containing batch materials and significantly lowers the glass melting temperature.”

Regular soda lime silicate glass starts to form cracks under a load of 0.1 kilogram. That’s when the microcracks form on the surface which eventually lead to weak points, and the whole thing breaks. However, the machine they used to test this did not affect the LionGlass.

“We kept increasing the weight on LionGlass until we reached the maximum load the equipment will allow,” said Nick Clark, a postdoctoral fellow in Mauro’s lab. “It wouldn’t crack.”

“Damage resistance is a very important property for glass,” Mauro added. “Think of all the ways we rely on the strength of glass, in the automotive and electronics industries, in architecture, and in communications technology such as fiber optic cables. Even in healthcare, vaccines are stored in strong and chemically resistant glass packaging.”

The team is now testing different configurations, making LionGlass products that are thinner, since they are much stronger than regular glass. This is another way to make it cheaper and more environmentally friendly.

“We should be able to reduce the thickness and get the same level of damage resistance,” Mauro said. “If we have a lighter product, that is even better for the environment, because we use less raw material and require less energy to produce it. Even downstream, for transportation, the energy required to transport the glass is reduced, so it’s a win-win situation.”

Globally, glass manufacturing produces at least 86 million tons carbon dioxide each year. The team has filed a patent application as a first step to commercialize the product.

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