“When we first started looking for a name for our project, we realized there were some names that weren’t particularly appropriate,” says J.M. Sutter, a professor of materials science and engineering at the University of Michigan and lead author of the study.
“We were pretty shocked by how many names there were that didn’t seem like they could work.”
Sutter’s team created the names for a variety of materials, including glass, wood, ceramic, ceramic glass, and metal.
The names were then selected by the research team for their ability to identify their structure and to help them navigate a variety, but also dangerous, physical obstacles, such as glass doors.
The results, which are published in the journal Science Advances, reveal that glass is actually more versatile than previously thought, Sutter says.
“Our experiments showed that when you change the structure of a glass object, the strength of its resistive and elastic properties change, and the way in which it bends is also affected.”
The glass doors we’re going to build can be made of anything, from wood to ceramic glass to metal.
“When you change [the structure] of a material, you can get different properties of the materials,” Sutter explains.
“You can have a material that’s more rigid than a metal.
You can have it that is more flexible than a plastic.”
The researchers found that the more flexible a material is, the less likely it is to break.
For example, Suts says that glass can be created from ceramic glass and metal by changing the chemical composition of the material.
“In the beginning of the project, the goal was to see if it was possible to make a ceramic glass door,” he says.
The researchers also looked at the strength, bending, and elasticity of the structures, and they determined that the strongest and most flexible glass doors can be constructed from ceramic and wood.
“I think this shows that there’s no reason to think that there are limitations to how strong a material can be,” Suts adds.
“If you look at how flexible a piece of glass is, it’s very flexible.
If you can make it more flexible, you could make it stronger, and it’s a much more powerful material.”
The team then developed a new type of polymer that is flexible, as well as a new kind of resin, which can be used in the glass door.
“This was a really nice and simple way to get the glass structure,” Sut says.
And they’ve already begun the process of building more types of glass.
The team is working with the University at Buffalo and a group at the National Science Foundation to complete their research.
“For our next project, this will be our main focus, and I’m really excited about it,” Sutes says.
He hopes that the work will help guide the design of other materials, like the glass doors that will soon be on display at the Smithsonian Institution.