Volume 37, Issue 11, November 2002



Researchers Develop Glass-Plastic Combo as World’s Strongest Solid

According to a report in the September 12 issue of the American Chemical Society journal, Nana Letters, researchers at the University of Missouri-Rolla (UMR) have developed what they are calling the world’s strongest, lightest solid, which is an amalgam of glass and plastic. 

The material, which UMR calls aerogels, is a sturdy material of porous glass and plastic that is “as light as air.” According to a report in Science News, “the materials show promise as lightweight body armor for soldiers, shielding for armored vehicles and stronger building materials.” The story also reported that aerogels could be used for window insulation, long-lasting tires and light, safe aircraft and space vehicles.

“We took the lightest material available and made it 100 times stronger, giving us the strongest, lightest material known to man,” said Nicholas Leventis, associate professor of chemistry at UMR and chief author of the research paper, “Nanoengineering Strong Silica Gels.” “Our material appears promising for practically any application that requires lightweight, strong materials.” 

Study Decreases Deaths of Birds by Glass
A recent study revealed that turning off lights in buildings during migration season could reduce the number of birds killed daily from flying into windows.

“For the first time, we have numbers to back up scientists’ claims that turning off building lights during migration season is an effective way to reduce the number of birds who kill themselves by flying into buildings,” said Doug Stotz, a conservation ecologist at the Field Museum in Chicago.

During 2000 and 2001, Stotz and several of his associates counted dead birds around Chicago’s McCormick Place every day during the migration seasons (from late-March to the end of May and from mid-August to Thanksgiving). Half of the building’s vertical surface is glass, and the ecologists found that the lights in the building disorient the birds, which navigate by the stars.

Turning the lights off reduced the number of dead birds by up to 88 percent, depending on the lighting conditions and location of the windows.

GMIC Studies Glass-Melting Technologies
The Glass Manufacturing Industry Council (GMIC), based in Westerville, Ohio, has initiated a 6-month program intended to document the state of glass-melting technologies in the industry today as well as efforts made in the last century to upgrade those technologies that were less than fully successful. The program is headed by C. Philip Ross, president of Glass Industry Consulting, and Gabe Tincher, who formerly worked in strategic planning at Owens Corning.

The GMIC's Next Generation Melting Systems (NGMS) task force intends to combine the outcomes of the resulting report with a detailed analysis of future possible directions for glass melting, with the purpose of identifying a viable path forward to assure the viability of the industry into the indefinite future.


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