2017-2018 Glass Age Scholar | Glass Age | Corning

Science of Glass

Science of Glass

Science of Glass

2017-2018 Glass Age Scholar

2017-2018 Glass Age Scholar

Xin Li, University of California, Los Angeles

Glass is an extraordinary material. With a slight change to its elemental composition, you can drastically change the material’s characteristics to be more damage resistant or flexible among other things. Here at Corning, we’re continually exploring the properties of glass and are excited to see where glass science leads us in the future.

Just as glass is comprised of a variety of elements, glass science research is as well – with one of those key elements being academic glass science research. To build awareness of glass science in academia, Corning invites graduate students to apply for its Glass Age Scholarship, which involves conducting a year-long glass science research project aimed at advancing the field in topics especially relevant to industrial glasses.  

In her third year of undergraduate studies at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Xin Li has had a love affair with glass since first discovering its use in architecture.

“I feel as if glass buildings express both a sense of high-tech and modernism,” said Li. “But I was also curious about how to balance the aesthetic of glass with its performance – why is glass the only building material that is not only transparent but provides the structural strength architects desire?”

Li’s interest in glass’s role in architecture steered her to take her first materials science course where she began to analyze the material at an atomic level, growing her desire to understand the myriad properties inherent in glass just by simply changing its composition. Li’s curiosity and passion has led her to be named the 2017-2018 Glass Age Scholar.

“I was very excited to hear I was named the Glass Age Scholar and thankful for the opportunity,” said Li. “Glass is a very versatile and reliable material. We can drastically change the properties of the material just by altering the composition or the way it’s produced, and I’m looking forward to beginning this project.”

Li’s interest in the versatility of glass paired with her curiosity in atomic structures inspired her to study civil engineering at UCLA. As a member of UCLA’s PARISlab, Li works on computation simulations on the atomic level, trying to better understand the structural analysis of glass relaxation. She’ll be carrying this research focus over into her work as the Glass Age Scholar.

For this year-long research project, Li will work at UCLA with mentoring from Corning Incorporated scientists, exploring glass relaxation and its compositional dependence.

“I will be working with aluminosilicate glass, which is the display glass used on mobile devices and other displays,” said Li. “By using modeling and simulation techniques, I will try to predict the optimal glass composition to handle glass relaxation.”

Glass relaxation can be easily explained by a common myth about medieval cathedral glass. When looking at a pane of stained glass from medieval cathedrals, the glass tends to be a little thicker on the bottom than the top, leading people to believe glass is flowing at room temperature. What glass scientists have discovered, though, is that this is not quite true. Glass does flow, but only if you heat it up a few hundred degrees, which then causes relaxation.

As a material with unstable equilibrium, glass is constantly trying to approach its equilibrium state which happens to be liquid. Relaxation, as a principle, is happening all the time, but at room temperature, it’s too low in magnitude to actually observe.

But why does this matter?

One of the practical aspects of glass relaxation is the impact on the manufacturing of display panels. Corning manufactures large sheets of glass used as the substrate in flat-panel displays, and when the glass is heated by the panel makers to deposit thin-film electronics on the glass, relaxation is activated and the glass can begin to shrink.

Although the glass panel shrinks at a very minimal scale (we’re talking parts per million here), the pixel can compress, potentially distorting high-resolution and high-performance displays. Through Li’s research project, she hopes to better understand this process as well as compositional solutions for real-life applications.

This project not only addresses a problem of technological interest to Corning but could also fill in some of the missing pieces.

“Xin’s novel approach, which uses atomic models coupled with topological information, can provide the missing link to understanding glass relaxation and solve age-old problems of fundamental glass science,” said Sushmit Goyal, senior process simulation engineer, and Li’s Corning industrial mentor.

Goyal and Li hope to provide those missing links by the end of this project.

With research officially kicking off in September, Li said she hopes to start the foundation of her project this summer at UCLA. And while her project may just be beginning, Li’s future in glass science is as well.

“I think glass science is a promising field,” said Li. “It’s exciting to explore new properties of glass and continue to discover how versatile this material truly is.”


The Glass Age Scholarship was awarded to one student annually at the collegiate level, providing an opportunity to work closely with Corning scientists on a research project to help guide academic glass science research.

Students were required to propose a research project highlighting one of twelve topics important for enabling future advances in glass science and engineering – as cited by an article authored by Corning scientists on the need to continue glass science education and academic research.

The goal of the scholarship is to encourage students studying glass science to begin to conduct work in the areas most important to the glass science industry. By doing so, students will gain a solid foundation to prepare “well for a future career in industrial glass research, product or/process development, or manufacturing.”