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Dry Ice Made into Super-tough Glass 197

janus zeal writes "A form of solid carbon dioxide that could be used to make ultra-hard glass or coatings for microelectronic devices has been discovered. The material, named amorphous carbonia, was created by scientists from the University of Florence in Italy. Writing in the journal Nature, the team says the material was theoretically possible but had never been created. It was made by squeezing dry ice, a form of carbon dioxide used to create smoke in stage shows, at huge pressure. Scientists are interested in the new material because of the potential applications. Also, they believe it could give them clues to the processes that happen in the center of huge gas giant planets such as Jupiter."
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Dry Ice Made into Super-tough Glass

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 17, 2006 @12:55PM (#15555146)
    I don't see this stuff replacing transparent aluminum anytime soon.
  • by klik ( 93694 ) on Saturday June 17, 2006 @12:55PM (#15555148)
    This is a hell of a thing if hey manage to find a way of making it stable at room teperature and pressure - a glass that has a similar strength to diamond made from a highly available source material? I can see a ridiculous number of uses for this!
    • by kfg ( 145172 ) on Saturday June 17, 2006 @01:02PM (#15555170)
      . . . if hey manage to find a way of making it stable at room teperature and pressure. . .

      Easy enough. Simply apply the Congressional Model of engineering; redefine room temperature and pressure.

      • by RsG ( 809189 ) on Saturday June 17, 2006 @01:21PM (#15555227)
        That, or we use the NASA model and swap the units of measurement. Kelvin you say? Well let's just assume they meant Celsius!
      • Hey- not every member of Congress is that dumb. Don't ask me to name 'em, of course...

        But I digress.

        I think you're on to something here- but instead of redefining the temperature and pressure, re-define the room. Maybe this stuff could be used for constructing deep-sea exploration vehicles and habitats. That'll shave off a few degrees / add a few atmospheres to the temperature and pressure targets.

        Up on the shore they work all day
        Out in the sun they slave away
        While we devotin'
        Full time to floatin'
    • by RsG ( 809189 )
      I wonder if this is similar to Aerogel? []

      From the description in TFA it seems similar, but I don't have the background in chemistry to make an educated guess. Anyone with credentials care to enlighten me?

      And if this stuff is just a new aerogel varient, what's the advantage to it? I was under the impression that we'd need to make aerogel in space if we wanted it in quantity, this new stuff seems to have been made on earth, but requires pressure and/or cold to stay stable.
      • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 ) on Saturday June 17, 2006 @01:27PM (#15555253)
        No, it's like glass, except with carbon replacing the silicon.
      • by ottothecow ( 600101 ) on Saturday June 17, 2006 @01:42PM (#15555302) Homepage
        No, this is nothing like aerogel

        Aerogel is pretty fricking sweet though. (and for other reasons than the fact that it can float and carry things)
        its a great insulator and there are some (carbon?) aeogel's that are conductive of electricity...pretty cool stuff, quite expensive though

        • by Martin Blank ( 154261 ) on Saturday June 17, 2006 @02:47PM (#15555545) Homepage Journal
          It's also extremely brittle. I have a little bit that an aerogel manufacturing company sent to me after a polite request based on curiosity. It was just an irregular scrap piece from the machineroom floor, about an inch thick, two inches wide, and four inches long, and the gentleman was kind enough to mail it to me free of charge (I offered to pay for it). Within two minutes of taking it out of the plastic case, it had become two pieces, and in the years since has become about seven pieces.

          The MSDS enclosed with it said that it had no known toxic effects, so a friend ate a small piece, just a few millimeters on a side, before I could stop him. It didn't hurt him, but it left his mouth feeling weird. He is a bit of an eccentric, though.
          • by KozmoStevnNaut ( 630146 ) on Saturday June 17, 2006 @03:22PM (#15555645)
            but it left his mouth feeling weird

            You probably already know this, but that was probably an effect of aerogel being extremely absorbant. If it wasn't so expensive to manufacture, it would probably make an ideal replacement for kitty litter for cleaning up oil spills and the like.

            It can be treated to become extremely hydrophobic, though, allowing it to be cut with precision water jet cutters and such.
    • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 ) on Saturday June 17, 2006 @01:18PM (#15555217)
      Um, diamond is made from a highly available source material. Under much the same conditions actually. It also has the minor advantage of not evaporating at room temperature and pressure.
      • by svtdragon ( 917476 ) on Saturday June 17, 2006 @03:26PM (#15555658)
        At the right temperature and pressure, a ring made from dry ice leads to frostbite and ring made from diamonds leads to sex. That's another advantage.
    • Carbon sequestration comes to mind.
    • So we now have this really neat-o material that's
      almost as hard as diamonds,
      almost as strong as diamonds,
      more difficult to make than Diamonds,
      and unlike diamonds is unstable at temeratures and preasure where it's properties might be usefull!
      Which brings use to the stupid question; Why don't we just use diamonds?

      In case you can't tell, I really love stupid questions.
    • a glass that has a similar strength to diamond made from a highly available source material? I can see a ridiculous number of uses for this!

      Yeah! We could use it as a cheap alternative for diamonds in rings, and it'll even cut glass so nobody will be able to tell it's fake!
    • Easy -- it already remained stable after being cooled to room temperature. Just increase room pressure to 5.7M PSI and you're all set. (Don't forget to swallow or yawn to equalize the pressure!)
  • by Baldrson ( 78598 ) * on Saturday June 17, 2006 @12:59PM (#15555164) Homepage Journal
    The next stage of the research is to work out how to make the glass stable at room temperature and pressure.

    Reminds me of the cartoon of the scientist at the blackboard with a series of equations on one side and concluding equation on the other with "And then a miracle happens." in between.

    • the cartoon of the scientist at the blackboard with a series of equations on one side and concluding equation on the other with "And then a miracle happens." in between.

      Do you have that cartoon?

      It would come in very handy next time I have enough free time to go argue with Creation Scientists.

    • s. harris []

      Brilliant guy. I have loved his cartoons since I was a kid. Have most of his collections. If you want a true belly laugh, get a copy.

    • by kfg ( 145172 ) on Saturday June 17, 2006 @01:57PM (#15555365)
      "And then a miracle happens" . . .

      We mixed it with a bit of room temperature and pressure gaseous diamond. Unfortunately this only works so long as we keep it immersed in room temperature and pressure molten gold.

      If we can just work out how to. . .

      I find it interesting that one of the things this company is pushing is that it would be a solution to binding excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. I thought the solution to that was simple and obvious:

      Take your carbon dioxide and some plain water. Crack the water into hydrogen and oxygen. Crack the carbon dioxide into carbon and oxygen. You're left with a lot of . . .oxygen. Hurray! Let it go in the air and breath deep.

      Now you've got carbon and a hydrogen. Combine the two and you'll get a sort of brown-black goo which will be a bit of a disposal problem, since you'll eventually end up with billions of barrels of the stuff, but really, all you have to do is inject it under pressure into underground sand and shale deposits and it can sit there safe for millions of years.

      Problem solved.

      Of course you have to be careful. There's a certain risk that when the hydrogen and carbon combine you'll just end up with billions of barrels of vodka instead of brown-black goo and lord only knows how we'd manage to dispose of that.

      • I'm guessing that the process you just described is what will land Iceland on the map as an energy producer. They have tons of geothermal power that could be used to power the cracking needed, and they will get oil and/or hydrogen out of it. The benefit is that if we can do this, than the resulting oil would be carbon neutral--if you burn it you are just putting it back where it started from. Most of the "energy" issues isn't that the world doesn't have the energy, it is in the wrong places.
    • The next stage of the research is to work out how to make the glass stable at room temperature and pressure.

      That's easy - just remove the oxygen from the lattice!

      Reminds me of the cartoon of the scientist at the blackboard with a series of equations on one side and concluding equation on the other with "And then a miracle happens." in between.

      I have some training documentation (on Ericsson AXE node switches) from my ex-employer with a diagram including that exact phrase. For all intents and purposes, it

  • by chiller2 ( 35804 ) on Saturday June 17, 2006 @01:00PM (#15555169) Homepage

    Scratch-proof iPod screens of course! ;)
  • Stable at room temp? (Score:5, Informative)

    by MustardMan ( 52102 ) on Saturday June 17, 2006 @01:08PM (#15555189)
    I'm not on campus (it's saturday, wee!), so I can't access the original Nature article, but I have a feeling the "stable at room temp" bit was misinterpreted by the BBC writers. I really don't see any practical way to keep the molecules together at room temp and atmospheric pressure - there's a reason CO2 is a gas. Silicon glass is a sort of weird case - most materials that show a glassy transition do it at a much lower temperature, or are largely temperature independent. When people try to run simulations to describe glassy behavior, they generally assume zero-temperature and quenched disorder.

    FWIW, I spent the last two years working on computational study of spin glasses, and am working on my PhD in soft condensed matter, of which glasses are a huge part.
    • NPR (or quirks and quarks, or nature podcast, I forget) covered this.

      This material is only stable at a 1/2 million PSI (or atmospheres, I forget which.)

      They are trying to combine it with silica to form a stable compound that is harder than regular glass, but that's a long way off, and I'm not sure how hard the resulting material will be - you'd assume that it would be harder than glass, but softer than this new substance.
    • From TFA:
      "The next stage of the research is to work out how to make the glass stable at room temperature and pressure."
      BBC got it right - it's not stable at the room temperature yet.
      • Of course it's not stable at room temp. Nor will it ever be. I've found this article on a few other news sources, and it seems the goal of the researchers is to COMBINE CO2 with other compounds (like silica) to make a material harder than glass. I will confirm this on Monday when I can access the Nature article directly.

        BBC makes it sound like they want to magically make CO2 form a stable amorphous solid at room temperature, even though the molecules would have WAY too much kinetic energy to stay togethe
    • working on my PhD in soft condensed matter

      You know, I had to read that twice to understand what you meant... (or at least what it seems you meant - I doubt you're trying to tell us that you do your PhD work while immersed in a puddle of goo. :o)
  • by jfengel ( 409917 ) on Saturday June 17, 2006 @01:08PM (#15555190) Homepage Journal
    For stage shows, fog machines are far more controllable and produce better results than dropping dry ice in water. They use "fog juice" rather than dry ice.

    Though sometimes you'll use dry ice to cool the resulting fog. The hot fog gives you a smoky, atmospheric effect. If you want ground-hugging fog, you've got to cool it down, and dry ice is a pretty good way to chill it quickly.
    • But dry ice / carbon dioxide doesn't make your clothes smell. I hate going to performances that use fog juice type fog machines because of the smell. I also wonder what the physiological effects of vaporized glycols are.
      • Yeah, I suffer for my art.

        I have no idea what the long-term effects are. And God knows the dry ice is more fun to play with. But if you want fog right in a particular place at a particular time, nothing beats a fog machine.

        I do theatrical work, not concert work. Concerts usually just crank up the fog and let it go, the more fog the better. In a play there are scenes with fog and scenes without fog, and it's really nice to be able to control that with a guy in the light booth rather than dumping pellets into
      • I (and several friends) spent an evening in hospital on oxygen after an accidental "over-fogging" at a local laser tag arena a few years ago. We were holding a small room in a complex made from an old bank vault when the fog machine went crazy and filled the whole space with fog. Of course sensible people would have left when the breathing became hard but we had a position to defend :) Cue collapse, paramedics and aformentioned hospital stay. Fortunatly the match was a team training event not a public game
        • I am a firefighter. Actually, I'm a Lt. on an Engine company -- one of the volunteer firefighters who protect about 40% of the US population (most people don't realize how much of the US is protected by volunteer firefighters).

          We train using fog machines frequently, because if something goes wrong you can remove your SCBA and breath normally.

          In a training event for "Explorers" not too long ago, we used this fake smoke on a hot day. We had to cancel the use of it because several of the kids has asthma attacks. After investigating, the only explanation we could find, was that the appearance of smoke creates the expectation that it will be difficult to breathe. That expectation can be self fulfilling -- especially in young people who have had bad reactions to actual smoke in the past.

          Oh well.
    • I suppose this is a bit off topic, but what the heck.

      I use both regularly at work, for as much an expert that does or doesn't make me. Refrigerated heavy fog machines are great, but both are still used. In my experience at least, when used properly dry ice has a much richer, heavier effect then the machines like Jem (which we have) or Le Maitre makes. Of course, from a practical standpoint the heavy foggers are much more convenient. But for a good, one shot effect, we still often go with a large dry ice mac
    • There's other reasons - such as the fact that fogging oil condenses on the optics for the lights - you don't know real joy until you've cleaned 200+ stagelights.
  • by ScentCone ( 795499 ) on Saturday June 17, 2006 @01:14PM (#15555209)
    Cheap flights into Elbonia often connect through the Amorphous, Carbonia international airport. Unfortunately the town's not very stable when it's warm out.
  • All we have to do is start sucking up all the carbon dioxide out of the air, and convert it into little waste cubes that can be dumped in landfills or baby seal breeding grounds. It's foolproof!
    • Baby seals don't breed.
      • Sure they do. After mating, the female baby seal lays a cluster of eggs in the igloo that the male baby seal has built for her. The egg hatches revealing a penguin (the penguin is the puapal stage of the baby seal, not an independant organism as was previously thought), which feeds for approximately 8 weeks and then builds a silken coccoon around itself, attached to the underside of an iceberg, where it metomorphosis into an adult baby seal a further 8 weeks later.
    • Yeah, sure.

      Quoth the article:
      > Their discovery could lead to a way of storing or disposing of carbon dioxide gas,
      > a major contributor to global warming, deep in the Earth's interior.
      > To create the glassy amorphous carbonia, the team led by Professors Mario Santoro
      > and Federico Gorelli of the University of Florence heated solid carbon dioxide
      > between diamond teeth at pressures over 400,000 times greater than atmospheric pressure.

      And I suppose this process would require less energy, and
  • by AstronomicUID ( 929210 ) <atreides2k5@gmai l . com> on Saturday June 17, 2006 @01:28PM (#15555256) Homepage

    the term Vaporware Windows to a whole new level!

  • If it's not stable at room temperature or pressure, I wonder what happens when it breaks. As for that jazz about understanding the inner workings of the planet Jupiter...

    I for one welcome our new exploding glass overlords.
    • Re:Stability - (Score:3, Informative)

      by Alamar3 ( 882922 )

      You're misunderstanding the use of the word 'stability'. All glasses are thermodynamically unstable. A glass is, essentially, a liquid that has been cooled really quickly past the melting point to a temperature at which the atoms do not have enough energy to re-arrange themselves into the thermodynamically preferred crystalline ordering. This leaves you with a thermodynamically unstable - but kinetically stable - solid that has an amorphous structure (one with no long-range atomic order).

      Since this gla

  • put all the excess carbon dioxide into our ipod screens.
  • Is this the only this we can say about dry ice that the layman understands? The industrial applications of dry ice are quite numerous, it has far more utility than making magic smoke
  • This stuff only exists under huge pressure; it's not stable under ordinary conditions.

    Compare xenon hexafluoride [], a compound of an inert element, something once thought to be impossible. It is also created under high pressure, but it remains a crystalline solid at room temperature and pressure.

  • The whole process can be seen on this video clip []

"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts." -- Bertrand Russell