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Seaview's 'transparent' nose not 'SF' anymore? - New Aluminium windows?

Nautilus, Seaview, and more

Postby Dolphin » Sun Aug 29, 2004 11:32 pm

11 August 2004

If I remember my childhood TV days, wasn't Seaview's windows made of some form of transparent super steel? See an article below of a new reality. Science fiction to science.

Scientists in the US have developed a novel technique to make bulk quantities of glass from alumina for the first time. Anatoly Rosenflanz and colleagues at 3M in Minnesota used a "flame-spray" technique to alloy alumina (aluminium oxide) with rare-earth metal oxides to produce strong glass with good optical properties. The method avoids many of the problems encountered in conventional glass forming and could, say the team, be extended to other oxides (A Rosenflanz et al. 2004 Nature 430 761).

Glass is formed when a molten material is cooled so quickly that its constituent atoms do not have time to align themselves into an ordered lattice. However, it is difficult to make glasses from most materials because they need to be cooled -- or quenched -- at rates of up to 10 million degrees per second.

Silica is widely used in glass-making because the quenching rates are much lower, but researchers would like to make glass from alumina as well because of its superior mechanical and optical properties. Alumina can form glass if it is alloyed with calcium or rare-earth oxides, but the required quenching rate can be as high as 1000 degrees per second, which makes it difficult to produce bulk quantities.

Rosenflanz and colleagues started by mixing around 80 mole % of powdered alumina with various rare-earth oxide powders -- including lanthanum, gadolinium and yttrium oxides. Next, they fed the powders into a high-temperature hydrogen-oxygen flame to produce molten particles that were then quenched in water. The resulting glass beads, which were less than 140 microns across, were then heat-treated -- or sintered -- at around 1000°C. This produced bulk glass samples in which nanocrystalline alumina-rich phases were dispersed throughout a glassy matrix. The new method avoids the need to apply pressures of 1 gigapascal or more, as is required in existing techniques.

The 3M scientists characterised the glasses using optical microscopy, scanning electron microscopy, X-ray diffraction and thermal analysis, and tested the strength of the materials with hardness and fracture toughness tests. They found that their samples were much harder than conventional silica-based glasses and were almost as hard as pure polycrystalline alumina.

Moreover, over 95% of the glasses were transparent (see figure) and had attractive optical properties. For example, fully crystallized alumina-rare earth oxide ceramics showed high refractive indices if the grains were kept below a certain size.

Belle Dumé is Science Writer at PhysicsWeb

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Postby Novagator » Mon Aug 30, 2004 10:54 am

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Postby Graydon » Mon Aug 30, 2004 11:48 am

Thanks, that is very interesting.

There was a Star Trek movie a while back where they made transparent aluminum to build an aquarium for some whales on a Vulcan Bird of Prey. What was fiction just a few years ago is nearly possible now. :)
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Postby JWLaRue » Mon Aug 30, 2004 11:50 am's called 'transparent aluminum'. :D

You remember, a certain Montgomery Scott ("Scotty') gave the formula to a plastics house in San Francisco back in the mid '80's in trade for some large sheets of acrylic.

.....Seems he was looking to move a couple of whales......

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Postby PaulC » Mon Aug 30, 2004 12:01 pm

Wasn't the material for Seaview's bow windows called "Herculite"? I believe that was one of Admiral Nelson's inventions... along with the "wolfman" antidote. Hopefully modern science will catch up with that one too!
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Postby Captain Nemo » Sat Sep 04, 2004 6:21 am

Yep, Scotty traded the formula for "transparent aluminum" to the plastics people for some thick acrylic sheeting to make a whale-sized aquarium out of.

I liked his response when questioned about the wisdom of going back into the past and changing things like that.

"How do we know he didn't invent it?"

Now it looks like maybe he did. :D

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Postby Dolphin » Sat Sep 04, 2004 1:06 pm

I remember that scene, Scotty addresses the computer by talking to it....then realizing......'how quiant!'. Pulls up a chair and starts pounding the key boards. They just put James Doohans star on the 'walk of fame' in LA. Before his altimers and diabetes takes that away from him and us. Love ya Scotty. "Live long as you can and prosper".


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