Coatings Enhance Efficiency of Scientific Glasswear

Graphene and metal coatings on scientific glasswear will create a new type of nanomaterial. Read more below.

The term scientific glasswear is a description of glass equipment used for laboratory experiments such as beakers, test tubes, petri dishes and micro-slides. Over decades the composition of this glasswear has shifted from common soda glass such as that used for domestic windows to a borosilicate glass that was less prone to breakages during experiments.

The downside of the borosilicate glass was that it was more expensive to produce than soda glass, but the costs were compensated by the glasswear’s longer operational lifetime. More durable, but also more expensive and less thermal and chemically reactive versions of scientific glasswear have been made of quartz glass, effectively a very pure form of silica. This type of glass has been used expensively in windows and electronic devices in spacecraft, mainly because it also for a greater transparency and lower distortion of light.

Now it seems that common old soda glass may return to the scientific fold, but this time with a slight modification – a coating.

Scientists at the University of British Colombia in Canada have discovered that if a small piece of glass is coated with a thin film of metal such as silver, this will enhance the quantity of light that can be transmitted through it.

Furthermore, as metals are natural electrical conductors, a common old soda glass window pane can be transformed into a highly prized piece of scientific display equipment.

The real challenge for electronics manufactures today is to develop smaller higher-performance components but at a lower cost. If an electronic capability can be incorporated on to an ordinary window pane, it becomes tomorrow’s new sophisticated device. Such windows may be designed on any scale and may filter different wavelengths of light. They can even enhance the energy-efficiency of any device.

A graphene-glass combination is already paving the way for this technology. Scientists at Brookhaven National Laboratory in the US have discovered that common glass makes an excellent substrate for graphene-based electronic components. The glass “dopes”, or enhances, electron density in the graphene by transmitting sodium ions. Doping is the process that fits any semiconductor to a specific application. This is usually an expensive and difficult process because graphene is a delicate material and has to be used in layers of just one or two atoms thick.

Now that common glass can be used to make graphene semiconductors, the term scientific glasswear has acquired a whole new meaning.

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