The latest spectroscopy technology reveals surface damage on nanoscale glass

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa., May 26, 2021 — A spectroscopy technique has enabled the study of nanolevel imperfections within the surface of the glass. the method could lead to improvements in glass products like electronic displays and vehicle windshields, consistent with a team of international researchers that aims to supply a way capable of detecting the sort of structural change that takes place around nanolevel indentations on the surface of the glass. Such an approach would shed light on the properties that determine the strength of glass.

One of the most focuses of Penn State professor of chemical engineering Seong Kim’s group is that the study of glass surfaces, particularly their structure and sturdiness in terms of their mechanical and chemical properties. Vibrational spectroscopy also referred to as infrared spectroscopy, is often wont to detect surface defects to a degree. However, if the sort of defect generated on the glass surface is smaller than 10 µm, the defect can't be properly analyzed or imaged using the technique. Raman spectroscopy, which is usually favored within the research and study of glass, offers better spatial resolution, though it's not sufficient for structural analysis at the nanoscale.

In their research, Kim’s group used Corning Gorilla Glass, favored in smartphone displays and recently windshields and airplanes for its high level of durability. The glass that buyers are pertaining to their smartphones or that pilots are rummaging through isn't as strong because it was when it first leaves the factory, thanks to tiny scratches and other damage during physical contacts made by paper contact, vibration during a truck, sitting in packaging, and regular jostling during unloading. The defects might not be visible, but they're enough to weaken the glass. 

To study imperfections at that scale, Kim turned to Slava Rotkin, a professor of engineering and mechanics, who uses the instrumentation technique of hyperspectral near-field optical mapping in his work. the tactic uses a scattering scanning near-field optical microscope and offers both optical spectral resolution and high spatial resolution.

Kim’s team invented a glass surface with the tip of a small instrument to make nanolevel indentations a couple of hundred nanometers deep, and one or two microns wide. With Rotkin’s instrumentation technique, the team was ready to visualize the consequences on the glass resulting from the indentations, beyond even topographical damage.

The team noted the potential for imperfections as small because the ones they studied influence data. A camera on Mars, for instance, may measure spectral properties on the planet’s surface, though a scratch on the glass could affect optical properties and by extension the mechanical and chemical properties necessary for accurate detection. 

“By understanding nano surface damage over multicomponent glass materials using a technique like this, we will significantly increase our fundamental understanding of glass science,” Kim said. 

The NSF supported the research, which was published in Acta Materialia

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