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GUIDANCE PLUS

Fascinating world of glass and ceramics

B.S. WARRIER

Central Glass and Ceramic Research Institute is a unique laboratory under CSIR dedicated to research in areas of glass and ceramics technology.

— File Photo

NICHE sector: Facilities for research in glass and ceramics are limited even at the global level; float glass being manufactured at a glass factory.

Glass is a versatile material we use in everyday life. From drinking vessels to spectacles, from bottles and mirrors to window panes and dining sets are often made of the ubiquitous glass. It is widely used in science and technology. There are innumerable types of glass with diverse properties. New types emerge regularly thanks to goal-driven research.

Optical glass is a strategic material used as lenses and prisms for making periscopes, binoculars, range-finders, gun-sights, fire directors, and scientific, photographic and instruments like microscopes, telescopes, cameras, projectors, and theodolites.

Ceramics may mean clay products in common parlance. But they form a big family embracing objects from common pottery to high-tech semiconductors. Ceramics are sometimes combined with other materials to form ceramic composites. Whitewares, glass-ceramic composites, capacitors, ceramic fibres, cements, refractories, abrasives, catalytic converters, optical fibres, optical switches, space shuttle tiles, fuel cells, microwave transducers, thermistors, dental restoration, bone implants, missiles, ferroelectric components, microelectronic packaging, superconductors, and laser amplifiers are some of the applications.

Ceramics are hard. They normally resist deformation, temperature, and corrosion. Alumina, silicon nitride, silicon carbide, zirconia, and sapphire are forms of ceramics. Facilities for research in glass and ceramics are limited even at the global level.

We have in our country a research centre of rare distinction in this field — Central Glass and Ceramic Research Institute (CGCRI), 196, Raja S C Mullick Road, Kolkata - 700032; Phone: 033-24733476; Web site: www.cgcri.res.in.

CGCRI

It has two extension centres — Naroda (Gujarat) and Khurja (UP). The institute has a chequered history beginning from 1950, punctuated by several milestones of achievement. Apart from routine research, CGCRI focuses on import substitution. Optical glass was developed in early sixties.

The seventies witnessed the initiation of the development of laser glass, infra-red transmitting filters, synthetic quartz single crystal, high temperature protective enamels, high alumina ceramic seals and spacers. The eighties saw optical fibre for telecommunication, sol-gel processing of glass and ceramic materials, production of glass fibre based composites and application of ceramic materials in electronics. In the nineties, emphasis was given in the three major sectors - national security, industrial development, and societal activities.

The institute is now engaged in six sectors namely materials, minerals and manufacturing, communication and instrumentation, health care, energy and environment, water technology, and rural development.

The clientele of the institute includes several prestigious organisations like the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Mumbai / Indian Space Research Organisation, Bangalore / Ministry of Defence / Steel, and United Nations Industrial Development Organisation. A quick look at some of the special products of CGCRI tells us its range and diversity.

Ceramic bio-medical implants

Silicon nitride balls for hybrid ceramic metal bearing

Erbium doped fibre amplifier

Hard and abrasion resistant coating

Low-cost vitrified ceramic tile

LPG and CNG sensors

Orbital eye ball implants

Sol-gel based products

Solid Oxide fuel cell

Specialty glasses and glass coatings for plasma display panels

Synthetic refractory aggregates

R&D divisions

The various divisions and the thrust areas of research are indicated below:

Bioceramics and coating

The major areas of expertise are bioceramic based materials / coating; ceramic and glassy coating for biomedical and engineering applications; ceramic based selected medicinal implants and their clinical trial; components for electron tubes; microwave processing of ceramic materials; patient specific implants for rehabilitation through rapid prototyping

Ceramic membrane

Biomass and bio-fuel generation; catalytic membranes and reactors; ceramic capillary and hollow fibre membranes; ceramic membrane based processes; hydrogen separation and storage; membrane bioreactors/ contactors; metal and zeolite based membranes

Clay and traditional ceramics

This division caters to the need of local potters and small/ medium industries dealing with ceramic products; development of appropriate technology for diversification of rural pottery products and traditional ceramics is under societal mission; appropriate technology for special properties; use of non-conventional and industrial solid-waste materials in the production of traditional ceramic products.

Fiber optics and photonics

The institute had initiated R&D on fiber optics in early eighties, focusing on application-oriented research with particular emphasis on optical telecommunications and photonic components.

Specialty optical fibers: Rare earth doped fibers for optical amplifiers; photosensitive fibers for writing Bragg gratings; highly non-linear PCF for super-continuum sources; radiation soft fibers for dosimeter applications; radiation resistant fibers for nuclear environments.

Fibers for sensor applications: Fiber based devices and components (Fiber laser / Fiber amplifier / Sensors)

Fuel cell and battery

The alarming rate of depletion of fossil fuels has intensified the search for clean and efficient power generating systems based on renewable sources of energy. This division was formed in 2004 for developing viable technologies in the non-conventional energy sector.

Solid oxide fuel cell technology

Lithium-ion battery technology

Mixed ionic and electronic conductor based dense ceramic membrane for hydrogen separation.

Glass

CGCRI extends its services to the glass industry in lab scale trial glass melting, testing, and quality assurance of their products. This division has developed various glasses and glass-ceramics such as radiophoto-luminescent / filter / coloured signal / new generation lanthanum bearing optical / rare-earth doped luminescent / refractive index / fullerene-doped / tellurite / fluorophosphate glasses, transparent nanocrystalline glass-ceramics, machineable glass-ceramics, honey-comb cordierite glass-ceramics, and micronutrient glass fertilizers.

Specialty glasses and glass-ceramics for advanced technology applications; lead-free environment-friendly glass powders and pastes for plasma display panel; nano-metal glass nanocomposites; low melting transparent sealing glass; rare-earth associated nanocrystals in glasses for solar concentrators and IR sensors.

Nano-structured materials

Inorganic-organic hybrid nanocomposite coatings on glass and plastics; anti-reflective coatings on plastics; nanoparticles of metal, semiconductor, oxide, and mixed conducting oxides; carbon nanotubes/ composites; multiferroics in nanoscale; orbital physics, orbitronics; superconductivity

Non-oxide ceramics and composites

Reaction bonded silicon nitride; reaction bonded silicon carbide; dense silicon nitride; carbon fibre reinforced silicon carbide; carbon nanotube reinforced structural ceramic composites

Refractory

This division has developed of a wide range of refractories for steel, cement, glass and other high temperature processing industries; value addition to inferior grade natural raw (magnesite, bauxite); new generation synthetic aggregates by different processes; advanced monolithic castables; refractory for melting special glasses; refractory recycling; ceramic product from solid industrial waste (iron and steel, mining, power plant).

Sensor and actuator

Sensors for detection of toxic and combustibles gases like methane, carbon monoxide and LPG; semiconductor sensor based breath analyzer; humidity sensors for high temperature nuclear applications; trace moisture sensors; piezoelectric wafers for non-destructive evaluation of structures; high block-force packaged multilayer piezoelectric actuators for aerospace applications; energy harvesting devices using piezoelectric materials.

Sol gel

Sol-gel refers to a low temperature process of chemical solution deposition for the preparation of a wide range of glass and ceramic materials in different forms.

Research in this division include sol-gel processing of ceramic and optical materials for various applications, such as ceramic oxide powders (micro and nanometer size), ceramic oxide fibres, thin films, silica glass, and zeolite membrane.

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