What is glass, and why does it exist? These are some of the questions that researchers think the hypothetical “perfect” form of glass could answer—should they find it.
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Glass is integral to many parts of our modern lives—it is in our smartphones, high-speed fiber optic cables, windows, and so much more. And while we are surrounded by glass in our everyday lives, scientists remain puzzled by the material and why it forms the way it does.
Silica is the type of glass you are probably most familiar with, but there are many more types of glass beyond silica. Glass is mysterious in that it is technically any rigid amorphous solid, which means its atoms and molecules are not arranged in an orderly structure. Instead, they exist in whatever random arrangement they happen to be in when the material cooled and solidified.
Decades ago, researchers came up with an idea: If glass could still flow and settle, then maybe it could reach a hypothetical ideal state where the randomly flowing molecules happened to arrange themselves to be as dense and orderly as possible. This hypothetical “ideal glass” could explain why glass is a liquid with molecules that can’t flow.
While it might not be attainable, researchers are determined to find this ideal form of glass,
Find out more about the quest to find “ideal glass” in this Elements.
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Ideal Glass Would Explain Why Glass Exists at All
“For decades, physicists have dreamed of this perfect amorphous solid. They desire ideal glass not so much for its own sake (though it would have unique, useful properties) but because its existence would solve a deep mystery. It’s the mystery posed by every window and mirror, every piece of plastic and hard candy, and even the cytoplasm that fills every cell.”
To Make the Perfect Mirror, Physicists Confront the Mystery of Glass
“Ideal glass, if it exists, would explain what’s happening in all glass; it would be the state that molecules in regular glass are trying to reach.”
The Nature of Glass Remains Anything but Clear
“Understanding glass would not just solve a longstanding fundamental (and arguably Nobel-worthy) problem and perhaps lead to better glasses. ”
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