Zachy Hennessey
July 7

A transparent, adhesive and self-repairing glass has been developed by researchers in Tel Aviv University (TAU). The team behind its creation, led by PhD student Gal Finkelstein-Zuta and Prof. Ehud Gazit, claims that the glass opens doors to a diverse range of scientific applications.

The glass is derived from amino acids, the building blocks of proteins; unlike conventional glass produced through high-temperature processes, this glass forms spontaneously when a specific peptide — a molecule formed by amino acids bonding — comes into contact with water at room temperature.

“The commercial glass we all know is created by the rapid cooling of molten materials, a process called vitrification. The amorphous liquid-like organization should be fixed before it arranges in a more energy-efficient way as in crystals, and for that energy is required – it should be heated to high temperatures and cooled down immediately,” Finkelstein-Zuta explained.

Self-repairing glass that forms when touching water
PhD student Gal Finkelstein-Zuta, left, and Prof. Ehud Gazit. Photo courtesy of Tel Aviv University

“On the other hand, the glass we discovered, which is made of biological building blocks, forms spontaneously at room temperature, without the need of energy such as high heat or pressure. Just dissolve a powder in water — just like making Kool-Aid — and the glass will form,” she continued.

“For example, we made lenses from our new glass. Instead of undergoing a lengthy process of grinding and polishing, we simply dripped a drop onto a surface, where we control its curvature – and hence its focus – by adjusting the solution volume alone.”

Gazit elaborated on the discovery.

“The normal silicate glass we all know is transparent in the visible light range. The molecular glass we created is transparent deep into the infrared range. This has many uses in fields such as satellites, remote sensing, communications and optics. It is also a strong adhesive; it can glue different glasses together, and at the same time it can repair cracks that are formed in it,” he said.

“It is a set of properties that does not exist in any glass in the world, which has great potential in science and engineering, and we got all this from a single peptide — one little piece of protein.”

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