Young Professor Receives DKK 10 million for Research on Strong Glass

Morten Mattrup Smedskjær, 32, one of the youngest ever to be appointed professor at Aalborg University, has, along with colleagues Yuanzheng Yue (Aalborg University) and Marcel Somers (The Technical University of Denmark) received more than DKK 10 million from the the Danish foundation VILLUM FONDEN for research on more flexible and shatterproof glass.

The money will be used to investigate the interaction between the atomic structure of the glass material and the mechanical properties of the glass. The foundation is focused on the fact that the research may make it possible to design new glass with very special properties. Morten Mattrup Smedskjær, Department of Chemistry and Bioscience, says of the prospects:

- In the long term, our ability to tailor glass stiffness, strength and toughness could benefit both industrial and everyday applications. Besides the obvious safety benefits, glass with better breakage resistance can also lead to new solutions to major global challenges.

Despite his young age, Morten Mattrup Smedskjær has already published a number of scientific articles in leading international journals and received a number of recognitions including the Lundbeck Foundation Talent Award, Denmark’s Academy of Science PhD Award, the Spar Nord Foundation Research Award, the Norbert J. Kreidl Award from the American Ceramic Society and a special research management grant from the Sapere Aude program of the Danish Council for Independent Research.

He has a number of ideas on how new types of glass can be useful.

- For example, hard and "stretchable" glass materials can be ultra-thin and flexible and rolled into any form. Thinner and stronger glass, for example, is important for more fuel efficient cars with reduced energy consumption and fewer harmful emissions. Glass materials can also improve the efficiency of energy conversion in solar panels and contribute to the next generation of strong, light, and energy-efficient, architectural glass, says Morten Mattrup Smedskjær.

The project will pursue three goals:

  •  derive a model that can predict the effect of chemical composition on the fracture toughness of oxide glass, and clarify the relation between fracture toughness, crack propagation and scratch resistance;
  •  develop new techniques for surface treatment of metallic glass to improve toughness;
  • clarify the effects of chemistry, structure and topology on the mechanical properties of hybrid glass.

Better theoretical understanding

The way forward in making the vision a reality is an improved understanding of the link between the glass structure and properties. In the research project with Professor Yuangzheng Yue of AAU and Professor Marcel Somers DTU, Morten Mattrup Smedskjær will therefore delve into the theoretical basis for designing three different types of glass: oxide glass, metallic glass and the newly discovered inorganic-organic hybrid glass. The three families of glass present different challenges with regard to the mechanical properties, but there are also a number of common features.

The project pools the competencies of the three research groups involved at Aalborg University and the Technical University of Denmark in glass science and mechanics. 

Since the project involves three families of glass, the project will also provide insight into the atomic structures controlling the fracture toughness of glass materials in general.