A new type of glass engineered by Penn State University researchers aims to cut glass manufacturing carbon dioxide emissions in half. LionGlass was designed to use less energy to produce while remaining more damage resistant than standard soda lime silicate glass.

The researchers recently filed a patent application and are in the process of exposing various compositions of LionGlass to different chemical environments to study how it reacts.

A sample of LionGlass, a new type of glass engineered by researchers at Penn State that requires significantly less energy to produce and is more damage resistant than standard soda lime silicate glass. Credit: Adrienne Berard / Penn State.

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

Mauro says that the bulk of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions originate from the energy needed to heat furnaces that melt glass. LionGlass, however, only requires temperatures of around 300 to 400 degrees Celsius to melt, which leads to a roughly 30% reduction in energy consumption compared to conventional soda lime glass.

Not only does it need less energy to melt, but LionGlass’ lack of carbon-containing batch materials also eliminates the release of CO2 emissions. Mauro explains that soda lime silicate glass is made by melting three primary materials: quartz sand, soda ash and limestone. The latter two materials release CO2 as they melt.

LionGlass is also stronger than conventional glass, says Mauro. The researchers claim the glass is significantly more crack-resistant than conventional glass. In fact, tests show that LionGlass is at least 10 times as crack-resistant as standard soda lime glass, which cracks under loads of about 0.1 kilograms of force.

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

Clark adds the team has yet to find the crack-resistant limits because they reached the maximum load allowed by the indentation equipment.

Mauro says that the researchers hope LionGlass’ strength means that products featuring it are lighter, which is better for the environment because fewer raw materials are used, and less energy was needed to produce it.

“Damage resistance is a particularly important property for glass,” says Mauro. “Think about how we rely on the strength of glass in the automotive and electronics industries, architecture, and communication technology like fiber optic cables. Even in health care, vaccines are stored in strong, chemically resistant glass packaging.”

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