When you think of silver, what comes to mind first? Probably jewelry, coins, or flatware. But silver also has a special place in Corning’s history of technical glass innovations. And for senior research scientist Dr. Jesse Kohl, silver has a sentimental attachment as well as a practical one: It’s the element that got him interested in glass science and in Corning specifically.
Kohl became fascinated by glass as a child, after unearthing discarded vintage bottles on his family’s farm in Oregon. In middle school, he landed a job at the local glass factory, Northstar Glassworks. One day, he had the opportunity to observe visiting glass artist Suellen Fowler at work. Known for her small and detailed perfume bottles, Fowler employs custom coloring techniques, including one that intrigued Kohl. By heat treating a silver and germanium doped borosilicate glass, Fowler could produce many different colors by using the flame of a torch as a paint brush. That’s when Kohl became smitten with silver.
Several years later, Kohl attended the Glass Arts Society conference in Corning, New York, and joined a field trip to Sullivan Park, Corning Incorporated’s legendary research and development facility. There, he learned about Corning’s history of using silver in technical glasses, including the company’s pioneering work with photochromic glass in the 1960s. The experience inspired him to study chemistry in college, and he returned to Corning as an intern studying glass compositions featuring silver as a key ingredient. Kohl joined Corning as a research scientist in 2015, and today he is exploring a new family of glass-ceramics with tunable optical properties, which can be thermally treated to produce a range of colors. “The material is intended for applications where you need tinting as well as heat protection, such as architecture or automotive sun roofs,” explains Kohl.
The project builds on the pioneering work done by his legendary predecessors.