Work conducted by Glass Technology Services, Heriot-Watt University and a consortium of industry partners could lead to a huge breakthrough for the manufacturing sector.
Glass Technology Services researchers are taking part in a major project to weld glass to metal and flexible glass to glass – which could revolutionise manufacturing industries such as aerospace, defence, optics, optoelectronics and healthcare.
The scientists in Sheffield are working with Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh and a consortium of leading industry partners to fuse glass to metal, and to seal flexible glass using an ultra-fast laser system so it is airtight.
Because of the difference in thermal properties glass could shatter if conventional heat bonding techniques were used, so adhesives are used instead. However, this can be messy and unreliable as the glues can degrade.
Now, by using a laser system, the need for adhesive is eliminated, vastly increasing durability and design possibilities.
Glass Technology Services has worked on the project, dubbed internally ‘Project UltraWELD’, to commercialise the idea. Rob Ireson, of the Glass Technology Services Research and Development team which included Dr Owen McGann and David Eustice, said: “We have been very excited by this project. It has massive potential in many industries which need to attach metal to glass.
“Our part in the project has built on the Glass Technology Services expertise in OLED lighting (organic light-emitting diode devices). Our in-depth knowledge of glass science and materials processing will help maximise the robustness of the final bonded components.
“Glass Technology Services will also be exploiting its extensive networks within the glass industry and related sectors to identify new applications which might benefit from the UtraWELD technology.”
The consortium working on the project includes lasers specialists Oxford Lasers and Coherent Scotland, the high-tech defence company Leonardo; photonics technology firm Gooch & Housego, and the CPI.