This new discovery could reduce energy consumption in the production of glass, according to Engineering.com. Charles McLaren, a doctoral candidate of Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Penn., placed a block of glass between a cathode and anode, then exerted pressure on the glass while heating it. McLaren discovered that doing so essentially reduced the melting temperature of glass, thus reducing the need for higher levels of energy to produce the heat. This could have big impacts in things like the production of supercapacitors that enhance the performance of everything from high-powered batteries to solar panels.
Himanshu Jain, Lehigh Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, said in a statement that the technology is especially relevant to companies seeking the next wave of portable, reliable energy. This new discovery not only could help glass manufacturers reduce costs but also could offer new opportunities in energy efficiency for the whole world. The discovery was documented in Applied Physics Letters.
In addition to making glass formulation possible at lower temperatures, it also could give designers a tool to make precise manipulations that are not possible with heat alone. “A breakthrough in the use of glass for power storage could unleash a torrent of innovation in the transportation and energy sectors, and even support efforts to curb global warming,” said Jain.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, glass manufacturing is an energy-intensive industry fueled mainly by natural gas. Glass manufacturing accounted for 1% of total industrial energy use in EIA’s most recent survey of the manufacturing sector. Most of the energy consumed in the process is from natural gas combustion to heat furnaces to melt raw materials to form glass. The EIA said there is “substantial potential” for energy efficiency improvements in glass manufacturing and that estimates rage from 20%-25% alone in the melting and refining process.
Glass manufacturers have long been looking for ways to reduce energy consumption and have been investing in things such as waste heat recovery systems, which capture heat from furnaces, then convert them back into energy.