An Australian team comprised of researchers from the University of Adelaide, the University of Melbourne and Macquarie University have developed a glass that glows in the dark without the use of photoluminescent coatings. They embedded photoluminescent nanoparticles into glass in what they call a “direct doping” approach. The nanoparticles are invisible – so they preserve the transparency of glass – but they glow when struck by ultraviolet and near-untraviolet light.
Smart glass could be shaped into optical fibers
The process can produce glass of any shape, including optical fiber, and was created using a two-stage melting process. The researchers envision the technology being used in medical imaging applications and 3-dimensional displays. The technique could be used to examine the status of individual cells in the body, bypassing the traditional luminescent dye processes used today.
The idea of using photosensitive nanoparticles isn’t new, but the production technique has been vastly improved using the new method. Prior to this, glass nanoparticles had to be created inside molten glass, which led to an uneven distribution of the desirable particles. Using the new technique, the glass nanoparticles are developed in a separate process, then added to the molten glass in a carefully controlled production process. That allows the researchers to control the distribution of the glass nanoparticles, and results in a more even (and more useful) distribution in the finished product.
The research team refers to the resulting material as a hybrid glass, and allows researchers to make a major step forward in the development of “smart glass” applications. Additionally, they believe that the two-stage approach to this glass hybrid could be used with other particles that could give glass embedded photonic, electronic or magnetic properties.
According to project leader Professor Heike Ebendorff-Heideprem, Deputy Director of the Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing, “We are heading towards a whole new world of hybrid glass and devices for light-based technologies.”
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Jon, via Flickr.com