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Arts and Culture

Arts and Culture

Arts and Culture

Corning Engages Glass Arts Society on Aesthetic, Technical Wonders of Glass

The Aesthetic, Technical Wonders of Glass

Wendell to artists: Let's bring function and design together

CORNING, N.Y. – Do you know how long it would take a molecule of oxygen to pass through a 1-millimeter-thick piece of silica glass? What about the time it would take to create a visible change in the thickness of a glass window? Wendell Weeks, chairman and CEO, answered these questions and shared other surprising glass facts when he addressed members of the Glass Art Society recently. (You can find answers at the end of this story.)

As the keynote speaker for the 45th annual GAS conference, Wendell described Corning's love affair with glass.

"We love how it forms, how it feels, how it handles light, and how it takes on color," he said. "We love its curvaceousness, its clarity, and its complexity. Most of all, we love how alive it is, and we love how the great glass masters – of both yesterday and today – make it breathe, dance, and sing."

Wendell talks about the 'love affair'

Wendell discussed technical attributes of glass that fascinate him -- including strength, stability, transparency, versatility, and sustainability -- and explained how Corning is taking advantage of these features to develop products from next-generation displays to optical communications solutions to components for architecture. He then explained why he believes Corning has entered the Glass Age.

Wendell admitted it is an "audacious" claim in light of the fact that manmade glass objects date back to 3000 B.C., and there is evidence of natural glass 3 billion years old. He also noted that glass has been responsible for so many revolutions – from telescopes that expanded our understanding of the universe, to microscopes that led to the discovery of bacteria and viruses, to communications technologies that have transformed the way we interact with information and each other. But Wendell said that three key factors suggest we are living in the Glass Age today.

First is the ubiquity of glass and its central role in our day-to-day lives. Wendell observed, "We interact with glass screens on our computers and smartphones; take pictures through glass lenses; transmit and receive information via glass fibers; protect materials in glass covers and containers; and incorporate decorative glass elements into our homes."

We are living in the Glass Age

He cited the accelerating pace of glass innovation as the second reason. He noted the extreme toughness of Corning® Gorilla® Glass and the ultra-flexibility of Corning® Willow® Glass as capabilities people could not have imagined just a decade ago. He also acknowledged the exciting work being done by other glass innovators, including MoSci Corporation, which has developed bioactive glasses that stimulate the body's natural defenses to help heal flesh wounds.

Wendell's third reason was the response that Corning received to its viral video, "A Day Made of Glass."

"People from all kinds of industries contacted us about helping make those technologies a reality or using glass to solve problems that we hadn't even conceived of," he said.

After sharing examples of how Corning and other innovators are making those technologies a reality -- including infotainment walls, interactive retail windows, smart hubs in the home, and connected cars – Wendell invited volunteers on stage to interact firsthand with some of Corning's glass innovations.

He closed by issuing a call to action. He shared a story of one of Corning's major consumer technology customers who toured the Corning Museum of Glass with him and was particularly moved by the exhibits in the Contemporary Art and Design Wing. The customer said, "How can I make the look and feel of my products have the same effect that this artwork does?"

Wendell posed that same challenge to the audience of 700 glass artists and craftspeople. He asked, "How can we take this technological moment that's applying the functional capabilities of glass to solve problems, and create a human moment that helps make the world a more stirring and moving place?"

He urged the audience to help tell the story of what glass can do and how it makes people feel, as well as to reach out to their friends in industrial design. "We've made the technology case for the Glass Age," he said. "But we won't realize the true potential of a Glass Age through a technology movement alone."

What's his ultimate vision for the Glass Age? Products, Wendell said, that "stir in us a sense of wonder, a sense of beauty, and a sense of connectedness."

​Wondering about the answers to the questions above?

It would take more than seven-billion years for that oxygen molecule to make its way through one millimeter of silica glass.

That's just a blip when you consider it would take 20 trillion times the age of the earth to create a visible change in the thickness of a glass window. As Chief Strategy Officer Jeff Evenson observed, "That meets the warranty requirements of Corning's most demanding customers." Is it any wonder Corning loves this material?