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Space Science

Glass In Spaaaaace 292

Posted by Zonk
from the microgravity-for-macrogains dept.
AnKsT wrote to mention an article on NASA's site about creating and manipulating glass in space. From the article: "In microgravity...you don't need a container. In Day's initial experiments, the melt--a molten droplet about 1/4 inch in diameter--was held in place inside a hot furnace simply by the pressure of sound waves emitted by an acoustic levitator. With that acoustic levitator, explains Day, 'we could melt and cool and melt and cool a molten droplet without letting it touch anything.' As Day had hoped, containerless processing produced a better glass. To his surprise, though, the glass was of even higher quality than theory had predicted."
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Glass In Spaaaaace

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  • *Crash!* (Score:4, Informative)

    by Reaperducer (871695) on Sunday June 19, 2005 @10:51PM (#12859822)
    And best of all... In space, no one can hear you break the glass.
  • by CrazyJim1 (809850) on Sunday June 19, 2005 @10:54PM (#12859836) Journal
    The only reason he wants to create glass in space is to one day fashion a giant magnifying glass in space. After calibrating it on ants, he plans to bring the world to its knees.
  • But can molten glass in space sort bolts.
  • purity (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheSHAD0W (258774) on Sunday June 19, 2005 @10:55PM (#12859845) Homepage
    Several SF authors have predicted that electronics manufacturing would eventually move to space because it'd be easier to produce purer semiconductor crystals in microgravity. Maybe the time has come?
    • Re:purity (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Not using this technique. TFA says the reason glass is so much more pure in microgravity is because it is RESISTANT to crystallization under such conditions.

      • Re:purity (Score:5, Insightful)

        by myowntrueself (607117) on Monday June 20, 2005 @12:10AM (#12860214)
        "because it is RESISTANT to crystallization under such conditions"

        Heres a thought.

        Will this sort of effect be important in hibernation and cryogenic storage of human beings?

        Think about it like this, we develop a way to freeze people and thaw them out, test it for a few years here on Earth, deploy the system for space trials and find that the human body reacts quite differently to crystalisation under microgravity.
      • On the other hand, the reason that glass is resistant to crystallisation in microgravity is because of the way the liquid glass flows in the presence of gravity.

        The article doesn't make it clear whether this property is unique to glasses, or whether it is normal for any molten material. It could be that semiconductor materal still does crystallize much more easily in microgravity.
    • Yea, but the shipping costs are just crazy!
    • Several SF authors have predicted that electronics manufacturing would eventually move to space because it'd be easier to produce purer semiconductor crystals in microgravity

      Siiiigh. I'm going to guess that's because SF authors heard about scientific theories/research.

      Scifi authors are just people who are good at making semi-plausible science to help an otherwise boring plot along. It's like curry...the meat's pretty lackluster, so there's a strong sauce. Few of them actually envisioned stuff that w

      • Re:what a cliche (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Planesdragon (210349)
        I've never been really impressed with Asimov's rules for robots. They're pretty plainly obvious, but nobody came up with them, because there wasn't any need (there still isn't!)

        A: Re-read Asimov and replace "robot" with "artifical intelligence." Or, better yet, "android."

        B: Asimov created his rules to tell stories about the rules, including how they were a bad idea. Not to mention that there should be 5, not 3.

        1: An android must perform only those tasks which it has been designed to do.

        2: (So long as
        • 4: (So long as it does not conflict with the above,) An android must not allow itself or any other object to come to harm.

          Wouldn't the "not allowing itself to come to harm" mean that you'd never be able to use androids for rescueing people or in areas where significant danger is involved (hazardous environment etc.)?
        • Re:what a cliche (Score:4, Insightful)

          by cagle_.25 (715952) on Monday June 20, 2005 @01:40AM (#12860623) Journal
          In the I, Robot stories, robots were most emphatically designed not to be weapons. Your rules would allow robot weaponry.

          I'm not so sure that I, Robot portrays the rules as a "bad idea" but rather a source of inconsistency -- and therefore a source of great story material.
    • Yeah, but that is just Opiate for the Geek Masses [slashdot.org]
  • by drewzhrodague (606182) <drew@zhrodag u e . net> on Sunday June 19, 2005 @10:56PM (#12859850) Homepage Journal
    I wonder how long it will take humans to use this technology to build a better bong. Think about it -- bongs made in space...
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Dude, I was just thinking about how much I would pay for something like that... Then I got to thinking, about thinking, about thinking, about thinking about this glass... and then I got like real confused and decided to use a pipe instead.

      Nachos anyone?
    • How would one go about making a bong that could operate in freefall?
  • by ScaryMonkey (886119) on Sunday June 19, 2005 @10:57PM (#12859859)
    It's a good thing they figured out a way to make glass in space. Maybe now they come overcome the titanic production hurdles involved with producing glass here on Earth, and bring down its astronomic cost.
    • But how do you get the glass back from space? You gotta "drop" it down to earth to get it back, right! Of course I understand the real ability is to work with micro sized pieces we'd never be able to manapulate here. at that scale glass is nearly as strong as metal... espically flawless glass.
    • And to get it back to Earth, they can just produce non-glazed, defect-free items, which can then be sent down in microwaves...
    • It's a good thing they figured out a way to make glass in space. Maybe now they come overcome the titanic production hurdles involved with producing glass here on Earth, and bring down its astronomic cost.

      Hopefully they will. Ever tried to purchase a large sheet of strong Low-E glass? It's not exactly cheap.

      Put together an 8 foot long fish tank sometime and tell me it's cheap and plentiful.

      Acryllic would be close if it wasn't so easy to scratch -- horrible for a large window.
  • by TripMaster Monkey (862126) * on Sunday June 19, 2005 @10:57PM (#12859860)


    This article is a perfect example of the sort of technological advances that will be possible when we establish a space habitat capable of sustaining industrial production. Microgravity is a condition that is almost impossible to replicate here at the bottom of the gravity well, and we are just beginning to realize the applications.

    • And it only costs $7000 a kilogram to bring that glass payload back down to earth! Sweet! Micro-gravity coke bottles for everyone!
      • OK, I know it's a joke but I just love being a wet blanket. Obviously, the glass we make on earth is fine for coke bottles. It's also plain that this guy wants to make glass that will be unique from that made on earth in the hope that it's special properties will have special applications.

        How about "Transparent Aluminum"?

        In Earth-orbit, it turns out, these molten liquids don't crystallize as easily as they do on Earth. It's easier for glass to form. So not only can you make glass that's less cont

        • I'm trying to find an application for either glass, aluminum, transparent alumnium, or reflective glass, that would justify valuing it at substantially over $7000 a kilogram. Remarkably strong, corrosion resistant glass had better not cost enough that transporting one window from factory to installation costs more than the entire rest of the house. Glass motors sound like a wonderful idea for... well, absolutely bloody nothing. Might as well grind up diamonds into a fine powder and sprinkle them into the
          • First, you're assuming that transportation costs will never go down. Granted, it'll always be more expensive to ship something to and from orbit than it is to truck it across the continent, but the cost differential should decrease somewhat in the future as technology improves.

            Second, what about things that simply cannot be produced in a terrestrial environment? I see no evidence that this is the case, but humor me: suppose you can fabricate semiconductors that are significantly higher-performing in mic
          • Hmm.. From the Earth, it is very expensive to transport. I wonder what the cost would be from the moon.

            -InnerWeb

        • "Die Cast Construction it's a lost art."
          -Optimus Prime.

          Some of you might not remember the Transformer's episode. However it's useful in regards to building in space. Using focused sunlight and magnets you could build space stations and space craft. It would solve the delema mentioned in another article about the aging shuttle fleet. Why carry stuff up, when we can use moon rocks to build it.
      • You know though, this could be used to create finer lenses for lithography back on earth.
    • by geomon (78680) on Sunday June 19, 2005 @11:10PM (#12859942) Homepage Journal
      Although this article [bobpark.org] is a couple of years old, the scientific community is not necessarily convinced of microgravity's promise.

      This is one result that may or may not scale to industrial production.

      I'm not closed minded, but I am skeptical.
      • At Six Flags in California, they have a ride where you sit in a chair that they lift up high. Then they accelerate the chair down to the ground, simulating weigthlessness for a brief period of time.

        If research shows some kind of advantage of producing new types of glass under zero g, couldn't companies invest in some kind of apparatus like this and invent a process to produce their zero-g glasses on Earth?
      • Although this article [bobpark.org] is a couple of years old, the scientific community is not necessarily convinced of microgravity's promise.

        Robert Park and the American Physical Society have long been foes of both the Shuttle and the ISS. Take his comments with a grain of salt.

        For example, take section 2 of the linked article - which criticizes a research program for not producing 'unique results'. Anyone familiar with science knows that non-unique results are as important as unique results.

        • Robert Park and the American Physical Society have long been foes of both the Shuttle and the ISS.

          First off, the American Physical Society [aps.org] has no stance for or against the Shuttle and the ISS. They are a professional society for physicists. They occasionally perform studies or issue statements based on areas of their expertise. The only statement about the ISS that I am aware is Statement 91.2 [aps.org] and was released in 1991. Basically it said that the APS feels there is no current credible scientific ju

  • Why this matters (Score:4, Informative)

    by FunWithHeadlines (644929) on Sunday June 19, 2005 @10:58PM (#12859861) Homepage
    No, it's not to make purer martini glasses for snobs who demand only the very best. From the article:

    "But why is that important? What's wrong with glass made of silica?

    For windows silica is just fine. But glass made from other chemical compositions offers a panoply of unexpected properties. For example, there are "bioactive glasses" that can be used to repair human bones. These glasses eventually dissolve when their work is done. On the other hand, Day has developed glasses which are so insoluble in the body that they are being used to treat cancer by delivering high doses of radiation directly to a tumor site."

    Cool beans!

    • Oh, great. That's just what I want: GLASS BONES.
    • Re:Why this matters (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Brandybuck (704397)
      The latter sounds like something my company helped work on. The medicine is encapsulated in microscopic beads, which are then injected into the bloodstream. You then image the region of interest with ultrasound. When you have it focused where you want it, hit the button, the frequency changes, bubbles shatter, and medicine is delivered precisely where you want it.
  • Glass, concrete, etc. Everything is made better in space.
  • It's interesting research, but the manufacturing-in-space argument is weak. This has been used as a justification for the expense of going to orbit with astronauts, and it never rings true to me. Floride glass fiber won't be manufactured more than 100 feet from the surface of the Earth in the forseeable future. Has any of the materials-properties-in-space research has lead to new commercial products?
    • What's really needed from space manufacturing is the tools to continue space exploration. For truely state of the art space stuff the drop-out rate of parts is near 50% that you have to make to get enough usable ones.. that number's gotta get way down. Not to mention were're starting to make the technology leap from cutting parts out of blocks of stuff to steering the building of the momlecules that make up stuff... there's not the facilities on earth to do that economicaly
    • One of the space products has been Microspheres [microspher...pheres.com] several magnitudes more precise than those made on earth. Other of the NASA Microgravity projects [nasa.gov] can lead directly to ultrapure chip development for use in, for example, pinhead size medical and scientific gas chromatographs [shu.ac.uk] and mass spectrometers.

      Because the microgravity should allow for high chip yield and high quality, the remaining issue is cost of production.

      Allowing for $10,000 per Kg (source [cato.org]) for a mature launch/return system like the Saturn 5,
      • With some luck, the furnace will stay there. But you still need fuel and there's less than 95% yield for mass unfortunately. Plus add another 30kg to provide a safe ride home.
    • It would probably be much cheaper to simply make an express elevator on earth that recreates the micro-gravity. I can see most of this research being put to use out in the asteroid belt, but that's considerably farther down the road.
  • Up-to-date (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 19, 2005 @11:04PM (#12859901)
    April 14, 2003... Slashdot is really a frontrunner. Next they'll report that Bush won a second term in office...
    • "Next they'll report that Bush won a second term in office"

      And after that, they'll report that Bush won a third term in office.
  • Serious topic (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Quentusrex (866560) on Sunday June 19, 2005 @11:04PM (#12859902)
    Only a few serious answers so far, but do you realize how important this kind of work could be? He has proven a concept. Now it is much more likely for a corperation to invest in space stations to build their products. I'm not saying it'll happen within the next year, but that is it closer. Now corperations will feel the investment is less risky with much more payoff. Can you imagine having your CPU made with the parts so much more pure then they are now? Engineers could build smaller chips because they wouldn't have to account for the impurities that naturally come in the materials.
  • April 14, 2003 -- In BOLD letters for Jesus "tap-dancing" Christ's sake.

    How is this news? I realize the mentality of if I haven't seen it it's new to me, but come on.

    Is there an update or something?

    I feel like I'm taking crazy pills here.
  • by creimer (824291) on Sunday June 19, 2005 @11:11PM (#12859943) Homepage
    In microgravity...you don't need a container.

    Right. Until there's an accident when someone is too busy playing with their velco stripe and a blob of molten glass goes into someone's eye on the other side of the station. If that happens over the state of California, Cal-OSHA will be all over the space station like Bill Clinton with an intern. They would have to shut down the space program until it was safe go back into space -- again.
    • Yup, we all know you need containers for things in space. Can you imagine what would happen if an ant farm in space didnt have a container, and the ants spilled out all over the place?

      Oh, the horror, the horror. New insect overlords, indeed.
    • Sure. And they're welcome to come do inspections as often as they can afford to. Besides, the orbital space above the Earth is not subject to the laws of the political entities beneath it.
  • Like, no way! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by stienman (51024)

    "He did some glass-melting experiments, trying to pull thin fibers out of melts," recounts Day. "During the low-gravity portion of the plane's flight, when g was almost zero, the fibers came out with no trouble. But during the double-gravity portion of the plane's flight, the fiber that he was pulling totally crystallized."

    Like, totally, dude.

    I guess "that" generation finally made it to the real world.

    -Adam
    • Let me translate for the old fogies in the audience-
      There are two possible definitions here.

      The standard use:
      "...the fiber that he was pulling completely crystalized."
      which would mean literally 100% of the fiber did crystalize, which I guess is suprising.

      or the implied use, which means:
      "...the fiber that he was pulling crystallized and suprised us." i.e. it may or may not have 100% crystalized, perhaps only 80% or even 50% crystalized, but the fact that it did was completely unexpected under those conditi
  • welcome our new fragile - *CRASH!*

    Uh, now that I think about it, a beowulf cluster would be much more appropriate.
  • Brilliant! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by RyoShin (610051) <`tukaro' `at' `gmail.com'> on Monday June 20, 2005 @12:21AM (#12860258) Homepage Journal
    While this may seem a bit odd, seeing as how they'd have to get that glass back to Earth without shattering it, they don't need to worry going back to Earth to make profits.

    This is the perfect thing for moving spacestations and eventual moon colonization forward. The station and moon have to deal with micro-meteor showers, which don't bother us because the rocks burn up in the atmosphere. Better glass would be a great contribution to these places to put up with the showers without suffering the view- the first private places on the moon will likely be held by the ultra wealthy, and, by golly, they'll want a view! Astronauts would probably thing it's damn skippy, too.

    Then, as most good inventions work, as the rich buy it, it eventually becomes cheaper and cheaper until Joe America can sit on his front porch with his friends on the moon and chuck empty beer cans at their super-glass dome without worry, just to watch them 'float' through the air.

    Assuming they find an economical way to get the glass to Earth, this can be perfect for deep-sea scientific endevours- glass that will hold up to higher pressures would allow for long time monitoring of underwater ecosystems with less reliance on miniature subs and wetsuits. Perhaps we'll even get talking dolphins.
    • I think the dolphins are actually talking already. They are just talking to each other, and in a language we don't understand yet. I think I'v watched something about understanding som eof the dolphins whistles on Discovery or somewhere else about it a while ago. I bet a google search could come up with something as usual.
  • by CyricZ (887944) on Monday June 20, 2005 @12:21AM (#12860260)
    Glass blowery is an art form that all true geeks should appreciate. It combines the best of chemistry with the best of blowery and some of the most complex mathematics. Indeed, using fairly advanced physics, calculus and fluid dynamics it is possible to blow shapes such as the Archimedes spiral and the Lagrange multiloop. While most traditional glass blowers do not have the mathematics or physics background necessary to calculate the algorithm to blow awe inspiring shapes, most geeks do. It's too bad that more geeks aren't into the art form. Their talents could lead to fantastic, abstract creations!
    • to calculate the algorithm to blow awe inspiring shapes

      Uhh, care to share one of these "algorithms"?
      • Well, there are a certain set of steps that you follow to create certain shapes. You have to calculate the amount of blowing required, the number of turns, the angle of such turns, the velocity of such turns, and so on. It is very simliar to the control protocols of manufacturing robotics, except they are executed by a human instead of a robot.
        • Ahhh, have you ever blown glass? I have, in college, and here's the thing: you need to keep putting the piece back in to the furnace because the glass cools down. Glass is droopy, and you need to keep spinning it to keep the piece from falling over. Shaping the stuff isn't a science, it's an art. When you get a blob on the end of your blow tube, you blow a little, then go scoop up some more, blow a little, round and cool it with a wet wooden block, scoop some more, and so on. Then there is the blowing proc
  • Ohhh, GLASS in space, I thought you said GAS in space, like in Rocket Man [imdb.com]
  • If you had something that was very hot and were able to suspend it in a true vacuum, then its heat would be suspended. (is this right? could light traverse a perfect vacuum to allow the escape of energy?) Could this be a way to transfer energy around the universe? Heat something up, accelerate it and the container to transport speed, and then seal it all in a pure vacuume (it's feasible we'll one day be able to do this). When it comes near to its destination, fill the vacuume, and start drawing energy away.
  • When most people think of glass, they think of that transparent stuff in window panes. But glass doesn't have to be transparent nor is it always found in windows.

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