We put our glass in students' hands. Here's what happened next.

What happens when students try to solve real-world problems with glass and ceramics? Invention, and so much more.

The first-place winners, Ling-Wen Huang and Yi-Hong Zhong, presented their idea of using Corning's fiber on a mountain rescue device.

An ultra-thin glass fiber weaves throughout an electric vehicle battery, monitoring the battery’s status in real time.

It’s an innovation that uses Corning-designed optical fiber to decrease the number of accidents caused by overheated car batteries. And it wasn’t invented by Corning scientists.

It was invented by two students: Cao Xin of the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences and Mai Jianbin of Guangdong University of Technology.

The scientists at Corning have found hundreds of ways to use glass in life-changing and life saving applications. But even the most seasoned glass experts know that great ideas can come from anywhere.

Cue the Corning Future Innovators program, which stimulates the next generation of critical thinkers. Started in Taiwan in 2015, and extended to the Chinese mainland in 2018, Future Innovators is a competition that challenges college, graduate, and Ph.D. students to solve real-world problems using Corning’s core materials: glass and ceramics.

Cao Xin, winner of the 2021 Future Innovators competition in the Chinese mainland, jumped at the chance.

“We noticed the increasing number of battery-powered vehicles. At the same time, battery malfunctions are prominent,” said Cao Xin. “Our monitor system can show real-time battery status to detect unsafe battery status in advance with enhanced accuracy.”

The students' proposal suggests using corrosion-resistant fiber as a core sensor embedded into the battery itself, monitoring battery pole piece status and temperature. Compared to a traditional resistance sensor that can only monitor the battery from outside, their design is more sensitive and proactive.

While Corning invented optical fiber as a communications staple in the 1970s, the Future Innovators program invites students to use glass fiber in new, inventive ways.

In Taiwan, the winners of 2021 Future Innovators proposed using Corning's fiber on a mountain rescue device. Designed by Ling-Wen Huang and Yi-Hong Zhong from Tatung University, the device could improve the chance of rescue and ensure the safety of mountain rescue teams and victims.

Taiwan’s 2021 competition attracted 287 contest entries that targeted specific United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to address social and environmental issues. In the Chinese mainland, 267 submissions tackled low-carbon travel, healthy lifestyle, and smart housing applications.

Every year, Future Innovators finalists gather – virtually, as of recent – for daylong workshops and one-on-one trainings. Along with guest speakers, Corning employees serve as mentors, sharing their deep knowledge of materials science while helping fine-tune proposals for technical and commercialization feasibility.

I've learned so much about materials from Corning's scientific experts, and we've picked up proposal writing and presentation skills that I can use even after graduating.
Yi-Hong Zhong

“I’ll recommend Corning Future Innovators to other college students because it encouraged me to take the initiative to grow and improve."

Corning leaders judge the final competition, which also includes a Best Paper Award.

To date, 11,200 students from 399 different universities have participated in the event, submitting a total of 2,300 creative proposals and research papers. Students from 90% of Taiwan’s universities have participated.

Corning Future Innovators is just one of Corning’s many programs that stimulates science, technology, education, and math (STEM) education. In the United States, Corning provides funding and mentorship to grade-school STEM academies and serves as a vital partner to STEM-oriented universities, like North Carolina A&T State University.

For John Zhang, senior vice president and general manager, Corning Display, the Future Innovators program highlights what the next generation is capable of, and how the company fosters their talent.

“Corning is one of the world’s leading innovators in materials science. We have more than 50,000 talented scientists, engineers, and skilled workers across the globe. At Corning, innovation is in our DNA and has always been our relentless focus,” John said. “Through Corning Future Innovators, we hope to spark the interest of the next generation in the field of science, technology, and engineering. We want to encourage more and more young talent to continue exploring, thinking creatively, and solving problems to deliver the next wave of life-changing innovations.”

Read more about Corning’s people, technology, and partners that are changing the world and shaping society every day.


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