Research Fellows Directory
Dr Anita Zeidler
University of Bath
Glasses are increasingly important materials in science and engineering where attributes, such as their mouldability and transparency, lead to uses in e.g. building materials, optical devices and medical appliances. Fabrication of materials for such applications is necessary for solving societal needs. However, the inherent structural disorder in glassy materials makes it a challenge to control their properties. Understanding the structure of glass, and its relation to the material's properties, is hence a cause for pressing concern.
My research programme uses the unconventional route of recovering to ambient conditions glassy materials that have been subjected to high pressure and high temperature conditions. The intention is to make novel materials with permanently increased density and new properties that cannot be obtained in any other way. A classic example of a crystalline counterpart is the processing of graphite (the "lead" in pencils) to form diamond under high pressure and temperature conditions. Both materials are made from carbon atoms, but only the diamond recovered to ambient conditions is hard and transparent.
The challenge is to design structures that give materials the desired properties, a route that is already extensively used in pharmaceutical drug design. The disordered and therefore complex structure of glass make this hard: The atoms do not form readily identifiable regular patterns. Moreover, it is necessary to understand this structure both at the high-pressure conditions under which the material is processed and at ambient conditions where the glass will be used. Only then will it become possible to trace how the processing affects the behaviour of a glass. A joint experimental and computational approach will be used to help.
With a better understanding of structure-property relationships and new computational models for a large variety of different glasses, the idea of designing desired glassy materials on the computer before making them by experiment will no longer be a dream.