Glass Engineer Natesan Venkataraman still recalls his first encounter with silicon in the 10th grade. His teacher gave him several unidentified materials to explore. The first looked like polished metal and felt brittle. The second behaved like silly putty. The third he recognized easily: a piece of transparent glass. After he had spent some time handling the materials, he learned that the first and second items were a silicon wafer and a silicone polymer. But, as a budding scientist, Venkataraman was more interested in their composition. “When I went to see what these materials were made of, they all had silicon as the primary element. It blew my mind that one element could create materials that looked and behaved so differently.”
Today, it’s not surprising that silicon remains one of Venkataraman’s favorite elements, since it is the backbone of so much of Corning’s work. Silicon combined with oxygen becomes silica, the quintessential glass-making oxide. Silica is the foundation of numerous Corning glass innovations including liquid-crystal display glass; thin, damage-resistant cover glass for mobile devices; and pharmaceutical packaging that resists breaks and cracks.