Paul Porter, Missouri University of Science and Technology
Ever since Paul Porter collaborated Corning Incorporated a few years ago, he has looked forward to another chance to work with the company that specializes in the material he has come to love: glass.
When a research advisor recommended that Porter, now a doctoral student at the Missouri University of Science and Technology, represent his materials science and engineering program as its 2018-2019 Glass Age Scholar applicant, putting together a research proposal was a welcomed addition to his busy schedule.
Soon after, in the middle of a week full of conference presentations and program qualifying exams, Porter received an email from Corning, letting him know he would work with Corning scientists to bring his proposal to fruition.
“I had been stressing about everything,” Porter said. “Then, I received the email that I was selected as the 2018 Glass Age Scholar, and it was a huge relief. All the work I had been doing that semester was finally going to pay off.”
And the work Porter had been doing might have been very different if not for a chance encounter.
For Porter, working with glass began when he took an elective as an undergraduate engineering student at Rensselaer Polytech Institute (RPI) in Troy, New York – about a 3.5-hour drive from Corning’s headquarters and research and development center. A favorite professor of Porter’s taught the class on glass, so Porter enrolled as another opportunity to learn from him.
“Within a week or two, I fell in love with the material,” Porter said. “I loved learning how glass behaves…I loved how unique it was.”
He quickly joined a research group at RPI which focused on glass science, structure, and properties. While there, Porter helped prepare samples and acquire data for graduate students during their research courses. Then, during his second-to-last semester, in a capstone course that required students to work with a company, he had his first opportunity to engage with Corning. Through the capstone, Porter explored use cases and end applications for Corning® Fibrance® Light-Diffusing Fiber – an innovative, decorative fiber optic lighting solution that can bend and illuminate tight spaces traditional lighting elements cannot fit.
“That experience— working with Corning engineers and scientists – was great,” he said. “I loved all the people I worked with, and I wondered when I would have another chance to work with Corning.”
That chance will begin in September 2018 and will involve working to characterize melting, crystallization, and microstructural development in glass and glass-ceramic systems to better understand relationships among processing, microstructure, and properties.
During his doctoral program at Missouri S&T, Porter developed and designed a device to apply the hot thermocouple technique. In the technique, one thermocouple acts both as the temperature sensor and the resistor that heats up the sample material – which is where the technique’s name is derived from. By rapidly alternating between two separate circuits, one portion of the device heats the sample material by applying voltage, and the other portion of the device measures that temperature generated by the first circuit.
“These actions can’t be done simultaneously because we can’t measure the voltage generated while we’re applying voltage to it,” said Porter. “We would just be applying the heating voltage to the measurement circuit. So, the system alternates back and forth between measuring and heating very quickly to accomplish both in a quick succession.”
Although the technique could be used with any material that melts and subsequently crystalizes, Porter has most recently used this technique in his doctoral research to study the rate and temperature at which nuclear waste crystalizes when mixed together into one material.
“The crystallization is caused by the presence of elements in excess beyond the glass’ solubility limit,” said Porter. “That is intentional, though, to increase the amount of nuclear waste we can safely store per ton of glass.”
Porter and other researchers are interested in knowing what phases form, how they form, and how conditions like thermal history, from the hot thermocouple technique, affect their formation. By studying this technique, Porter and others can better predict how the material’s microstructure will develop and affect its properties, durability, and viability as a safe form for the long-term storage of nuclear waste.
During Porter’s research as the Glass Age Scholar, he’ll look further into the hot thermocouple technique on glass systems that are of great interest to Corning.
“The technique hasn’t been used too much for glass properties,” Porter said. “I’m excited to see what kind of doors this opens up in the world of glass and what kind of understanding we can gain from it. I’m looking forward to the evolution of this project and where it goes aas well as to get feedback and help from Corning scientists.”
Porter’s Corning advisor, Dr. Matthew Blodgett, a research scientist at Corning’s research and development center, said Porter’s project could help with characterizing liquidus temperature. Although working remotely, Porter will share updates with Blodgett throughout the project to gain his insight and guidance.
“He’ll be working on something that, once transitioned from concept to a more applicable technique, could be extremely useful to Corning,” said Blodgett.
Although Porter is just in the beginning stages of his project, he has high hopes for his future findings – and his future career. Porter intends to stay in the industry and continue to discover additional wonders of glass after receiving his doctorate in 2020.
“I just really like glass,” he said.
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.”