“Transparent world”, the scenery here is unique

  The glass that can be seen everywhere may not attract too many people’s attention. Why did the United Nations designate 2022 as the “International Year of Glass”? This shows that glass has become the foundation of our society, and there will be a crisis in human society without glass materials.
  Carefully sort out the role and status of glass in the process of human civilization, and you will definitely find the charming style of the “transparent world”! With glass, human medicine will have more protection, going to the sea will have more support, information exchange will have more choices, exploring the unknown will have more confidence, energy conservation and emission reduction will have more strength… …
  ”A bottle is hard to find”,
  reflecting the weight of glass
  packaging We seem to be used to seeing a variety of glass bottled foods. However, what happened in the past two years may change our understanding of the importance of glass packaging.
  In order to cope with the fierce new crown epidemic, many countries in the world are racing to develop a new crown vaccine. Some media lamented: “The vaccine can be made, but the glass bottle of the vaccine cannot be made, and China is ‘stuck’ again?”
  What is the mystery of the small glass vaccine bottle that makes the vaccine “hard to find”? It turns out that the selection of materials for vaccine bottles is very particular. Vaccines are special medicines, and the requirements for packaging bottles are extremely strict. After all, the vaccine has to be in direct contact with the packaging bottle and stored for a long time. It is required that the vaccine bottle cannot interact with the vaccine, otherwise it will directly affect the quality of the drug and the safety of the drug.
  According to international standards, the glass container containing the vaccine must be “a medium borosilicate glass bottle”. Borosilicate glass belongs to medicinal glass, which can be divided into four types according to its boron trioxide content and linear expansion coefficient: high borosilicate glass, medium borosilicate glass, low borosilicate glass, and soda lime glass. Among them, medium borosilicate glass has become the “outstanding” glass packaging material for injections due to its excellent performance, and can be widely used in the manufacture of packaging bottles for various injections, blood, vaccines and other medicines.
  Due to its high melting point and high viscosity, medium borosilicate glass is more difficult than ordinary glass in the process of melting, drawing and forming. my country’s Four Star Glass is currently the first company in China that can mass-produce 5.0 medium borosilicate glass for pharmaceutical use. The National Development and Reform Commission invested more than 100 million yuan in the four-star glass for the construction of a 100,000-ton borosilicate glass production base. The completion of the base can meet the needs of 20 billion glass bottles for biological vaccines, thus changing the situation that my country’s vaccine bottles are “controlled by others”, and making domestic vaccines have completely independent intellectual property rights from production to packaging.
  In addition to pharmaceutical packaging, the status of glass in food packaging should not be underestimated. It is reported that in cool drinks, glass packaging accounts for 75%; in beer beverages, glass packaging accounts for 45%; in vinegar, glass packaging accounts for 99%; in seasonings, glass packaging accounts for 60%…
  In an era that advocates packaging, the status of glass as a packaging material is becoming more and more important. With its advantages of being bright and transparent, chemically inert, airtight, and easy to form, glass accounts for about 10% of the packaging containers in various industries, and the amount of glass packaging is still increasing year by year.
  Challenging the deep sea, the
  glass microspheres held up the “buoyancy dream”
  from the “Jiaolong” to the “Struggle” sea trial success, demonstrating the road to localization of China’s manned deep submersibles. Solid buoyancy material is one of the six key technologies of deep submersibles, and its core material is hollow glass microspheres.
  The so-called hollow glass microspheres are thin-walled hollow glass spheres on the order of microns. Such glass microspheres look like table salt and are difficult to distinguish with the naked eye. The wall thickness of the glass microsphere is about 1% of its diameter. Such a hollow structure makes its density very low, which is the root of its core as a solid buoyancy material. In solid buoyant materials, the volume of hollow glass microspheres accounts for as high as 60% to 70%, and directly affects the final performance of buoyant materials.
  Whether it is a manned deep submersible or an unmanned deep submersible, it must return to the sea surface after completing the mission. Solid buoyancy materials are the key materials to ensure that the submersible “goes home”. So how does solid buoyant material work?
  We know that only when the condition that the density of the deep submersible is less than the density of seawater is met, the deep submersible can achieve unpowered ascent. In the various subsystems that make up the deep submersible, except for the buoyancy material, the density of other equipment is almost greater than that of seawater. The density of the buoyancy material is only about half that of sea water, and its function is to lower the density of the submersible. Usually, the mass of the buoyancy material will account for about one-third of the total mass of the submersible, and the volume ratio will be larger.
  The “Jiaolong” is a manned deep submersible designed and developed independently by our country, and its dive depth has jumped to 7,000 meters in one step. However, the solid buoyancy materials used by the “Jiaolong” all depend on imports. At that time, the density of the most advanced solid buoyancy material at the 7,000-meter deep sea level in the world was 0.481 grams per cubic centimeter, while the density of buoyancy materials sold to my country by foreign countries was 0.561 grams per cubic centimeter.
  Solid buoyancy material is simply a “stuck neck” technology for our country. The key to developing deep-sea solid buoyancy materials is to break through the core technology of hollow glass microspheres. How to make hollow glass microspheres both light and strong is a hard nut to crack. After numerous trials and failures, the research team led by Zhang Jingjie from the Technical Institute of Physics and Chemistry of the Chinese Academy of Sciences finally solved the technical problem of deep-sea solid buoyancy materials in 2016. In January 2018, the Institute conducted a finalization test for the buoyancy material developed by my country’s deep-sea manned submersible. On November 28, 2020, the “Struggle” full-sea deep manned submersible successfully completed the 10,000-meter deep-diving sea trial mission and returned to Sanya, Hainan smoothly, marking that domestic high-performance glass microspheres supported my country’s 10,000-meter manned submersible The “buoyancy dream” of the submersible.
  In fact, the application of hollow glass microspheres is not limited to deep-sea solid buoyancy materials. As one of the key raw materials of composite materials, hollow glass microspheres not only have light weight, but also have chemical stability, mechanical stability, and sound and heat insulation effects. They are also useful in the fields of aerospace, information industry, oil exploration, and people’s livelihood.
  Glass optical fiber, the birth of the “neural”
  Internet in the information age is a legend in the history of human science and technology development, and its revolutionary significance is undoubtedly very far-reaching. It is unbelievable that a bundle of glass optical fibers with silica as the main material has brought mankind to a new information age.
  Communication based on light has a long history. From beacon towers to optical telephone sets, the importance of optical communication has been reflected; but it was not until the invention of lasers and optical fibers that the dawn of optical communication really ushered in.
  In 1966, Gao Kun first proposed the theory of glass fiber as an optical waveguide for optical communication in a paper, and calculated how to make light transmit long distances in the optical fiber. Kao won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2009 for his ground-breaking achievements concerning the transmission of light in fibers for optical communication.
  Optical fiber, referred to as optical fiber, is actually a quartz glass filament with high transparency, which is composed of a core and a cladding. The diameter of the core is less than 10 microns, the main material is silicon dioxide, and doped with a small amount of phosphorus pentoxide and germanium dioxide, and its function is to increase the refractive index of light. The diameter of the cladding is about 100 microns, and it is made of pure silicon dioxide material, or doped with a small amount of boron oxide or fluorine, and its function is to reduce the refractive index of light.
  Theoretically, an optical fiber the thickness of a human hair could transmit 100 billion telephone conversations at the same time. With such a communication system, “global village” is no longer just a concept. Why can glass optical fiber have such “magic skills”? It turns out that modern optical fiber communication mainly uses the principle of light reflection, and limits the total reflection of light to the inside of the slender optical fiber, so that optical signals can be used instead of electrical signals to complete information transmission.
  The development process of optical fiber communication has not been smooth sailing. For example, reducing the loss of optical fibers is a very challenging problem. In 1955, someone invented an endoscope for diagnosing diseases. This kind of endoscope is made of extremely thin optical fiber, and the light enters from one end of the optical fiber, and emits from the other end through continuous reflection. This kind of endoscope was originally applied to the diagnosis of human gastrointestinal diseases, but due to the large attenuation and loss of optical signals, only a limited range of internal conditions can be observed.
  The propagation attenuation of optical signals in optical fibers is determined by the purity of the glass and the wavelength of the transmitted light. Therefore, improving the purity of glass fiber materials is one of the keys to reducing fiber loss.
  In 1970, the world’s first low-loss silica optical fiber was born in Corning Glass Company of the United States, with a transmission loss of only 20 decibels per kilometer, paving the way for the use of optical fibers for communication.
  In 1971, the world’s first 1 km long optical fiber came out. In 1981, the first optical fiber communication system was launched. In the following decades, the optical fiber network supported the glory of the Internet.
  On April 20, 1994, China was fully functionally connected to the Internet through a 64Kbit international dedicated line, marking the opening of the Internet era in China. The leapfrog development of my country’s Internet has provided strong technical support for my country’s economic and social development and people’s smart life.
  In particular, the maturity and commercialization of 4G has brought us into the era of mobile Internet. The 5G era has further opened up a new vision of people’s smart life and has profoundly affected people’s way of life. The future 6G era will be a more intelligent era, and we look forward to a better tomorrow!