The trouble with deposition as a way to add thin films to glass is that the molecules pack randomly on the glass surface. Penn State researchers are looking at ways to make thin films thinner and stronger. They theorize that by packing the thin film molecules “better” they can get better performance from the films and the glass they’re attached to. To test this out, three scientists at the university have received a $1.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation.
Glass coatings research may lead to new materials
The research results may not just apply to current thin-film coatings. It may also help engineers and chemists design new coatings that can give glass novel properties. Conductivity and ultraviolet light blocking are high on the thin films wish list because coatings like that could be used to improve the efficiency of solar energy collectors and reduce solar heat gain in large buildings.
Scientists are looking for ways to combat a phenomenon they’ve observed in thin-film deposition. Using current deposition technology, a film that’s too thin changes the transparency of the glass. With the grant, the researchers hope to find a way to reduce the thickness of the coating while still maintaining the properties that make glass attractive.
The research team will be studying production factors like the ideal temperature and other conditions to determine their effect on the finished product. In addition, they’ll be testing new molecules to see if they can improve existing coatings or develop new coatings with unique properties. Ideally, the team hopes to develop a model that will enable scientists to predict coating characteristics accurately without having to manufacture it.
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Photo Credit: ZEISS Microscopy, via Flickr.com