Technology and Tech Transfer

Glass products are related to multi billion national and international markets. The area is dominated by some large global companies, but there are also thousands of small and medium sized glass producers. By taking the flat glass industry as a basis (most of the volume of glass produced in the world), an estimate of the overall production of glass articles is possible. In 2009 it was around 6.6 billion m2. (As a reference, Brazil – the second largest producer of ceramic tiles in the world, produced ~ 800 million m2 of ceramic tiles in 2011, only behind China (5.5 billion m2)). At the level of primary manufacture, such volume of glass represents a value of about € 22 billion. One part of flat glass is further processed by laminating, tempering and coating for use mainly in insulation for buildings or automotive glazing, meanwhile the market for solar panels has grown considerably. At this level, the overall market reaches about € 51 billion. China is the biggest flat glass market in the world. In 2009, Europe, North America & Mexico and China accounted for 70% of world float/sheet glass demand. In the same year, South America consumed only about 4% of the flat glass produced worldwide. But this scenario is rapidly changing, as Brazil becomes a strong international industrial player. Since 2007 several float glass companies have announced new plants in this country, and the installed capacity will soon go from 3 kton/day to almost 8 kton/day, considerably increasing the demand for engineering solutions and qualified human resources in this particular area. Besides windows, classical established glass applications comprise containers, light bulbs, kitchenware, labware, mirrors and lenses for optical devices, fibers for reinforcement and optical communication and ceramic tiles.

However, oxide glasses and glass-ceramics (GCs) can be found in many other less obvious applications, such as dental materials, bioactive materials for bone substitution and skin healing, interfacial material for abrasive wheels and electronic devices, engineered proppants for stuffing hydro-fractured oil wells, touch screens of high-strength, thin films for sensors and catalysis. The success of these high-tech industries is based on the multitude of opportunities for tailoring the physical properties of glasses to the particular application considered. Therefore the development of glass and glass-ceramic technologies is an enormously active area for R&D. An idea of their scientific and commercial importance of GCs comes from a search on Free-patents Online. About

2,400 granted or filed U.S. patents appear with the keywords "glass-ceramic" in the abstract. There are also about 1,500 European and 2,700 Japanese patents. These are very impressive numbers for a single field within all the numerous materials classes and types:

  1. Pilkington and the Flat Glass Industry Report, NSG Group (2010). (The numbers below also came from this report.)
  2. ANFACER - Brazilian Association of Ceramic Tile Manufacturers (external link)

Goals and Mission

The research insights obtained from the CeRTEV activities will be channeled for generation of new technologies and patents, all the way to new products and production processes (“science to business approach”). As discussed in the research plan, promising new technologies are expected in five main fields of application:

  1. Strong GCs for armors and dental implants,
  2. Bioactive materials for bone and tissue restoration,
  3. Energy storage and conversion systems,
  4. Photonic devices, and
  5. Catalysts for converting biomass into fuels and chemicals. In all these fields we will vigorously pursue transferring fundamental and applied research activities to the productive sector.

We aim at the development of new or improved, patentable glass or glass-ceramic materials in each field of application above: 1) light armors (for use in airplanes, cars and individuals) and tougher monolithic glass-ceramics for dental restoration. We will work closely with some companies, such as Vitrovita and EDG; 2) macroporous and hierarchically ordered scaffolds, fibers, small monolithic parts and powders with increased osteoinductive activities, combined with the ability for targeted drug delivery for bone and tissue repair. Our industrial collaboration network in this area also includes Vitrovita; 3) fast-conducting solid electrolytes for lithium ion batteries. Lithium ion cells in which these electrolytes are being implemented will be developed in São Carlos and tested in collaboration with the Münster Electrochemical Energy Technology center in Germany, a joint academic and industrial platform dedicated to the development of high-energy and high-power lithium ion batteries. We also aim at designing new glass-ceramic seals for fuel cell applications. Brazilian giant Petrobras is interested in these materials; 4) solid state lasing materials with enhanced emission characteristics. 5) we intend to use our conceptual understanding and research expertise in ceramic design for developing an entirely novel application of glass-ceramics:

The conversion of biomass into fuel and fine chemicals. The properties and performance of these catalysts will be tested in collaboration with colleagues at the Brazilian Laboratory of Bioethanol Science and Technology (CTBE) and the Brazilian Laboratory of Synchrotron Light (LNLS). Other industrial collaboration partners will be approached in concert with the research advances made in each area.

Strategy and Measures

The strategy for innovation and technology transfer of our CEPID will be based on and will follow three basic concepts and actions:

  1. Establishment of cooperation agreements and licensing of on-demand technologies commissioned by industry; the widespread skills of the group will be focused in order to approach industries with the two academic institutions; cooperation programs connecting universities, companies and other institutions (PITE and PPP/FAPESP, and FINEP) will be strongly encouraged;
  2. Nucleation of spin-off companies from the group activities; funds will be sought through programs such as PIPE/FAPESP; and
  3. Extensive promotion of innovation and technology transfer; accomplished by our extensive know-how in these matters combined with the assistance of agencies at UFSCar (external link) and USP (external link).

In collaboration with our partners from industry the technological core of our group will also establish infrastructure for the production of prototypes, on a scale beyond the laboratory, bringing our activities closest to the productive sector, e.g., one melting furnace for larger glass volumes than the conventional lab scale (some kilograms instead of grams); one disc mill that can be continuously operated, for a high output of glass powders; and a lab spray dryer for conditioning powders into granules with suitable properties for a fine ceramic processing. Furthermore, to ensure efficient cooperation between academic and industrial laboratories, it is crucial to increase the exposure of our students and postdoctoral fellows to the R&D environment in the industrial sector, significantly beyond the current practice in national postgraduate programs. To this end, we will establish a new fellowship program with the explicit purpose of enabling students to conduct part of their master and doctoral projects in the laboratories of our industrial partners. The costs of these fellowships will be shared between both parties. When it is necessary, we will work for adjusting the current postgraduate rules at UFSCar and USP to facilitate the establishment of this program. An agenda of specially designed workshops will guide the group members and collaborators on how to detect interests and manage some of their research to innovation, to follow the patent literature, to get access to patents and market reports, to estimate production costs and the potential market for a given technology, to avoid publications prior to patent request, and other important issues. The relevant information will be systematized and made available in the CeRTEV homepage on the Internet.

The discussion list in the Internet denominated Vidros (, created in 1997 by the Coordinator of Innovation and Technology Transfer E. Ferreira, will be brought to a more modern and attractive virtual environment, using modern tools, e.g., blogs and forums, stimulating the inter-relationship and R&D activities between academy and industry. This list has about 100 active participants in academy and industry, but has potential to grow to a much larger size. Active people in the glass field will be invited to join and participate.

Finally, we will create an office to gather and make contact among members of the CeRTEV laboratories, the glass industry and other research institutes to access industrial problems and create demand for R&D in Brazil in the areas of both traditional and new glasses and glass-ceramics.