New glass: 10X more damage resistant and cuts carbon footprint by nearly half

It requires a lot less heat to be produced than conventional glass but is much stronger.
Loukia Papadopoulos
A sample of LionGlass.jpg
A sample of LionGlass

Penn State University 

Researchers at Penn State have engineered an eco-friendly type of glass called LionGlass that needs significantly less energy to be produced and is much more damage resistant than standard soda lime silicate glass. They now hope their invention will help cut the carbon footprint of glass which worldwide produces at least 86 million tons of carbon dioxide every year. 

This is according to a press release by the institution published last week.

“Our goal is to make glass manufacturing sustainable for the long term,” said 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.”

The majority of the CO2 emissions of traditional glass come from the energy required to heat furnaces to the high temperatures needed for melting glass. With LionGlass, the melting temperatures are lowered by about 570 to 750 degrees Fahrenheit (300 to 400 Celsius), a roughly 30% reduction in energy consumption.

As an added benefit, LionGlass is also much stronger than conventional glass. LionGlass is at least 10 times as crack-resistant compared to standard soda lime glass.

Glass that won't crack

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

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

The improved strength of LionGlass could also mean that the products created from it can be lighter weight and significantly thinner.

“We should be able to reduce the thickness and still get the same level of damage resistance,” Mauro said. “If we have a lighter-weight product, that is even better for the environment, because we use less raw materials and need less energy to produce it. Even downstream, for transportation, that reduces the energy required to transport the glass, so it's a winning situation for everyone.”

Mauro’s team has filed a patent application for the entire family of LionGlass and is now in the process of exposing various compositions of LionGlass to an array of chemical environments to study how they react. 

“Humans learned how to manufacture glass more than 5,000 years ago and since then it has been critical to bringing modern civilization to where it is today,” Mauro said in the statement.

“Now, we are at a point in time when we need it to help shape the future, as we face global challenges such as environmental issues, renewable energy, energy efficiency, health care and urban development. Glass can play a vital role in solving these issues, and we are ready to contribute.”