Unveiling the hidden role of intermediate oxides in glass: Spectroscopic data combined with computational modeling provides new insights

In a recent study, researchers from Brazil and China, led by ACerS Fellow Edgar D. Zanotto, and Hellmut Eckert looked to address the elusiviness of the structural role of Nb2O, primarily due to the limited amount of spectroscopic characterization data.

For a sports team to function efficiently, each member is assigned a specific role, typically split between offensive and defensive positions. The distribution of these roles depends on the skills of the individual players, and an effective balance between offense and defense is not necessarily the same across different teams due to the variance in individual abilities.

Similarly, materials consist of molecules and atoms, each playing a specific role in forming a stable atomic structure. The individual properties of each particle determine how much or how little of it is needed to improve a desired property, such as chemical durability, fracture strength, or refractive index.

In glass science, oxides are considered to fulfill one of three roles within the atomic structure: network former, network modifier, or intermediate oxide. While the first two roles are rather self-explanatory, “intermediate oxide” describes oxides that

  1. Do not form a glass by themselves under standard laboratory cooling methods unless combined with certain other non-glass formers, and
  2. Easily vitrify in the presence of good glass-formers or other intermediates, where they contribute by forming bridging oxygens.

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