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SCHOTT solutions no. 2/2012 > Otto Schott Research Award 2012

The award winners: Prof. Joachim Deubener (2nd from left), TU Clausthal (Germany), and Prof. Adrian C. Wright (2nd from right), Reading University (England), together with Dr. Hans-Joachim Konz (left), member of the Board of Management of SCHOTT AG and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Ernst Abbe Fund, and Board of Trustees member Prof. Reinhard Conradt (right). Photo: SCHOTT/A. Sell

Investigating the Blueprint of Glass

This year’s Otto Schott Research Award was presented to Prof. Adrian C. Wright for his life’s work, research on the structure of glass using neutron beams, and Prof. Joachim Deubener for his findings on gas solubility in glass and glass melts.

Bernhard Gerl

Otto Schott’s invention of borosilicate glass at the end of the 19th century was probably his most important achievement. Prof. Adrian C. Wright dedicated much of his scientific life to researching the structure of this material of such great importance to both industry and households and became the first British glass researcher ever to be recognized with the Otto Schott Research Award. Prof. Wright taught and conducted research at Reading University in England before he retired in 2007. Among other things, he was previously presented with the George W. Morey Award from the American Ceramic Society in 1996 for his important research work. In addition, the sixth Borate Conference was held in his honor in 2008.

As the American physicist W. H. Zachariasen noted back in 1932, ”It must be frankly admitted that we know practically nothing about the atomic arrangement in glasses.” Chadwick discovered the neutron that same year. At the beginning of the 1970s, Adrian C. Wright at Reading was among the first to use neutrons from nuclear reactors and later on from particle accelerators to analyze the structure of amorphous materials like glass. Here, he coined the term amorphography analogous to crystallography.

X-rays, electrons and neutrons can be used to determine the structure of a material. The de Broglie wavelength of low-energy neutrons lies within the range of the diameter of an atom and thus allows conclusions to be drawn on the structure of the glass on the basis of its diffraction pattern. Neutrons offer an advantage in that they are mainly scattered by the nuclei of atoms and react differently to isotopes (atoms of the same element with different weights). Their high penetration makes it possible to analyze large sample volumes. Furthermore, magnetic properties can be determined on the basis of their magnetic interactions. All this makes neutrons a valuable tool for analyzing the structure of glass.
Prof. Adrian C. Wright investigated the molecular structure of glass.  Photo: SCHOTT/A. Sell
Elastic and inelastic scattering is used in neutron experiments. Elastic scattering provides information on the atomic and magnetic structure of the sample, while inelastic scattering selectively induces various vibrations. A Fourier transformation of the data obtained yields a correlation function that expresses how likely it is for an atom to be located a certain distance away from another atom. Over the course of his long scientific career, Prof. Wright analyzed many different types of glass using a wide variety of size scales like quartz, borate and metallic glasses and often obtained surprising results; for instance that borate glasses contain a much higher share of highly regular superstructural units, such as the boroxol group, than would be expected solely on statistical grounds. Today, we have a much better understanding of the structure of glasses. Professor Wright has contributed rather significantly to the progress that has been made in this area.

A molecular dynamic simulation of sodium borosilicate glass.
Source: Prof. A. N. Cormack

Outstanding glass researcher and educator

Professor Joachim Deubener habilitated at the Technical University of Berlin following two years of postdoctoral studies at the University of Arizona and four years as a tutor at Stanford University in Berlin. He was named an ordinary professor at the Institute of Non-Metallic Materials at the Technical University of Clausthal in 2002. In addition, he was honored with the Professor Vittorio Gottardi Memorial Prize sponsored by the International Commission on Glass for his outstanding achievements in the area of glass research in 2002. He was presented with the Otto Schott Research Award for his research on the transport processes and solubility of gases in glass and glass melts. Here, he analyzed how dissolved water influences the viscosity and glass formation temperature of glass. He also provided important scientific impulses by examining the properties of thin layers on glass and crystallization kinetics in silicate glass.

Prof. Joachim Deubener | Photo: SCHOTT/A. Sell


Here, he revealed to what extent the so-called reduced glass transition temperature can be used as a way of gauging the stationary crystal nucleation rate. His most recent research work has been devoted to the deformation and flow behavior of glasses, relaxation phenomena and development of enamel glasses, as well as sol-gel processes. For instance, in one of his more recent projects, he showed that the thermal stability of porous, anti-reflective layers on glass can be limited at temperatures in excess of 1100 degrees Celsius by way of sintering and that the water content of the layer material has a major impact on the shrinkage rate because it lowers its viscosity.
Prof. Joachim Deubener also performed research on the flow behavior of glasses (below a laboratory glass melt). Photo: FRAUNHOFER ISC / K. Dobberke
Professor Deubener is not only an outstanding glass researcher, but also an excellent teacher. His extremely informative master curves are one of his trademarks. He used these to summarize his own wealth of experimental results together with a much more complete collection of data on material sciences contained in expert literature in order to make the complex relationships between the solubility of gases in glass and glass melts or effective viscosities in multiphase systems – liquids that contain finely distributed rigid materials and gas-like phases.

Prof. Wright and Prof. Deubener received the Otto Schott Research Award worth 25,000 euros during the 11th Conference of the European Society of Glass Science and Technology (ESG) that was held in Maastricht, The Netherlands, in June 2012. This award is presented every other year on an alternating basis with the Carl Zeiss Research Award to recognize outstanding scientific achievements in fundamental research and technology development in the areas of special materials, components and systems for the fields of application optics and electronics, solar energy, health and living. Both research awards are managed by the Donors’ Association for the Promotion of Humanities and Sciences in Germany. <|