Concerned about the scarcity of industrially relevant glass research in academia, Corning is working to strengthen the future of the U.S. glass industry.
The company took a major step toward that goal in 2015 as two professors from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) began six-month sabbaticals at Sullivan Park's Research and Development facility in Erwin, N.Y. This is the first time Corning has designed a sabbatical program and invited applicants from the academic community. It is also one of the first U.S. programs specifically focused on glass research.
The objective is to enable close engagement between university professors and Corning scientists on research topics of mutual interest—especially those related to the fundamental science of glasses that are most likely to be used in commercial or industrial settings.
The inaugural distinguished researchers, Professors Liping Huang and Yunfeng Shi of RPI, appreciate this new vantage point.
"Seeing the vibrant research activities at Corning and the ability to work hand in hand with Corning scientists on fundamental glass problems has been quite eye-opening," Professor Shi said.
The company hopes that fostering this direct link with academia will influence the research at universities, encouraging more focus in key areas related to Corning and other major U.S. glass manufacturers.
"We began this journey two years ago when we were having a difficult time finding the right candidates for open positions within Glass Research," said John Mauro, senior research manager of Glass Research at Corning.
Corning’s Science & Technology organization addressed this issue first with a paper, "Glass Science in the United States: Current Status and Future Directions," and then a Glass Summit in Corning, N.Y. Both helped stimulate conversation within the glass research community on how to safeguard its future.
"The summit was a huge success – with more than 120 participants from Corning, academia, and various funding agencies from around the globe," Dan Vaughn, manager of External Technology Collaborations and Intellectual Assets, said. "It generated many great ideas."
One of those ideas was the newly established sabbatical program, named after Dr. Gordon Scott Fulcher, a Corning glass and ceramic scientist from 1920 until 1934. Dr. Fulcher was best known for the creation of the transformative three-parameter model of viscosity known as the "Fulcher equation."
Corning now hopes that a second summit will generate similar productive ideas. An event slated for June 2016 will include an expanded scope of topics and more invited speakers.
John said that as these efforts continue to grow, Corning is off to a solid start in nurturing future generations of glass researchers.
"It may take years or a decade for us to fully see the results of the work we're putting in now," he added, "but we're hopeful that the results will enable a brighter future for the glass industry at large."