Focus areas

The Centre FunGlass is the only research unit in the Slovak Republic dealing with the research and innovation in the field of glass-based materials at internationally recognized level. It is located in a region with high concentration of glass industry (the Euroregion White Carpathians at the Slovak-Czech border is called also “Euroregion of Glass”).

Established research activities

At present, the research activities of the Centre are oriented, apart from the industrial based research related to the needs of local and regional glass industry, also to:

  • development and characterization of new types of functional glasses with luminescent properties,
  • replacement of rare earth elements by transition metals in inorganic glass-based phosphors,
  • research related to vitrification and immobilization of radioactive waste,
  • and glass-fibres based insulation for nuclear power-plants.

The Centre also deals with:

  • innovative methods of glass production (e.g. flame synthesis),
  • polymer-derived glass-ceramic coatings for high temperature corrosion protection of metals,
  • and development of nanostructured coatings at glass surfaces by sol-gel techniques.

Strong ties with local industry are demonstrated by numerous research activities for regional glass producers (development of new types of utility glasses with high corrosion resistance for RONA a.s. Lednické Rovne, optimization of glass melting and elimination of foam formation for Johns Manville Slovakia, Trnava).

The Centre has been included to the Regional innovation strategy of the Trenčín region – RIS INSIT among the research establishments ensuring sustainability and increasing competiveness of the region.

The research topics pursued by the new FunGlass Centre are related to the RIS3 strategy of the Slovak Republic, and identified by the partners. Each partner acts as a leader in specific areas of research. The research topics are divided into five main application spheres of research activities of the new Centre:

Antibacterial coatings on glasses, e.g. bactericide coatings from mesoporous/mesostructured sol-gel films (CSIC, FSU):

  • bioactive glasses as coating agents to increase the biocompatibility and biological action of implants e.g. biodegradable polymers with bioactive glass fillers,
  • coatings loaded with antibiotics for metallic orthopaedic implants,
  • increase of bioactivity of bioactive glasses through surface topography for specific protein adsorption and cell attachment.
  • Metal-free antibacterial surfaces

Sol-gel derived, cell proliferation promoting, bioactive and anti-corrosive coatings on metallic substrates (CSIC, FAU):

  • protective coatings for surgical implant materials to prevent release of metallic ions,
  • corrosion and dissolution protective coatings on Mg biodegradable and bio-resorbable implants,
  • EPD-derived coatings on metallic implants for controlled cell attachment and increased cellular proliferation,

Materials for selective targeting of cancer cells (FAU):

  • surface modification of bioactive glasses for the anchorage of specific therapeutic molecules,
  • ordered mesoporous bioactive glasses for adsorbing and releasing drugs for cancer treatment,
  • bioactive glass with magnetic materials for osseous cancerous lesions treatment by local hyperthermia.

Fibrous/particulate bio-glass composites in soft matrices (e.g. biopolymers) for soft tissue engineering, regenerative medicine, cartilage implants and wound healing, including bioactive glass based scaffolds with tailored mechanical properties (elastic modulus, strength) (FAU, UNIPD) utilizing rapid manufacturing processes, such as 3D printing:

  • bioactive glass-based scaffolds with graded porosity,
  • particulate glass-based composites with biopolymers for chondral tissue engineering,
  • molten glass fused deposition of bio-glass scaffolds tailored to individual patients’ needs,
  • 3D-printing of bioglass powders followed by glass sintering/sinter-crystallization.

Tailoring of bioactive glasses and glass ceramics with modified bioactivity and tailored release of therapeutic ions to stimulate specific tissue reactions and cellular processes (FAU).

Sol-gel derived fibres for anchoring antibiotics and hollow microspheres for targeted transport and controlled release of drugs (FAU).

Optically active sol-gel derived coatings, e.g. nanostructured RE-doped oxyfluoride coatings doped with lanthanides and other active elements with impressive optical properties and very high efficiency (CSIC, FSU).

Flame and PVD synthesis of difficult-to-melt optically active glasses for LEDs and lasing applications (TNUAD, FSU):

  • development of new types of inorganic phosphors for HB-LED or passive light sources containing no, or substantially reduced level of rare earth elements,
  • preparation of glasses applicable as phosphors in fluorescent paints,
  • fully transparent/luminescent glassy or glass ceramic parts, applicable as inorganic phosphor layers in HB-LEDs or PLS used in energy saving lighting appliances.

Transparent nano-glass ceramics for up and down conversion (CSIC):

  • Rare-earth doped oxyfluoride glass-ceramics with desired optical properties for solar energy harvesting, wave-guides, telecommunications, optoelectronics, and high power lasers for biomedicine,
  • relationships between the processing, the atomic structure and the properties of transparent glass-ceramic materials.

Alternative fibre preforms production routes for generation of preform devices for fibre drawing (FSU):

  • mid- and long-term research of ultra-pure printing procedures, including optimization of high-purity binders and fillers, non-aqueous processing, and ultra-dense sintering through combination of vacuum pre-sintering and isostatic hot pressing, o optically active fibres, from nanostructured and transparent RE-doped oxyfluoride glass-ceramics.

Thermal stability and crystallization kinetics of optically active glasses and its influence on luminescence intensity and wavelength (TNUAD):

  • Tuning of luminescence intensity and wavelength of transition metal activator ions by variation of coordination environment through the change in the ligand field strength via controlled crystallization of host matrix.

Super-efficient optically active materials (FSU):

  • Paramagnetic glasses and super-spin glasses,
  • Anisotropic glasses with high optical non-linearity.
Reflective and anti-reflection coatings for solar energy production, photonic, photovoltaic, and optoelectronic applications (FSU):

  • adjustment of reflection properties at glass interfaces for heat transport control across building envelopes, increased efficiency of photovoltaic (PV) modules, and other systems for solar energy conversion,
  • development of new coating systems and corresponding low-cost, in line and off line deposition techniques providing increased efficiency at lower expense, and/or new functionalities, such as AR + antimicrobial; AR + spectral selectivity, IR-reflection + antimicrobial etc.

Dense magnetic tiles, as substrates for induction heating from vitrified non-radioactive waste (UNIPD):

  • dense ferrimagnetic glass-ceramics with borosilicate waste glass with iron-rich slags for innovative heating elements with high resistance to thermal shock and chemical stability,
  • materials for electromagnetic shielding utilising energy losses associated to magnetization hysteresis, which reduce the intensity of low frequency electromagnetic waves.

Disposal and immobilisation of radioactive waste by vitrification, with specific focus at the high level radioactive waste Chrompic from the A1 reactor of NPP Jaslovské Bohunice, Slovakia (TNUAD).

Thin-glass implementation with solar energy harvesting and building skins (FSU):

  • development of mechanically toughened thin glasses reducing the weight of window elements with multiple glazing and eliminating optical perturbations due to glass sheets bending,
  • low-cost large area chemical toughening of thin glass sheets.

Glass and glass-ceramic sealing glasses for solid oxide fuel cells (CSIC):

  • gastight glass-ceramic seals with required mechanical properties for SOFC stacks for intermediate temperature (IT) planar SOFC stacks as alternatives to barium silicate based systems.
Glass-ceramic coatings for high temperature corrosion protection of metals (TNUAD):

  • development of new types of polymer derived ceramic (PDC) environmental barrier coatings for protection of metallic substrates against corrosion in hot corrosive and combustion gases and salt melts for heat exchangers in power plants and communal waste incinerators with active and passive glass fillers for increased service time and energetic efficiency of heat exchangers,
  • determination of corrosion mechanisms of the coatings in various gaseous and liquid environments.

Self-cleaning/photocatalytic/hydrophilic/hydrophobic coatings on glasses (CSIC):

  • examination of various strategies, including the control of the crystal structure, generation of vacancies, doping with other elements, functionalisation of the interface and increasing of surface area for increased reaction rate and efficiency of TiO2-based photo-catalytic coatings, effectively using substantial part of the solar spectrum,
  • meso-structured TiO2 coatings with high surface area and increased photocatalytic activity for catalytic applications.

Surface-modified glasses with tailored sorption properties (CSIC, FSU):

  • tailoring nitrogen and water adsorption properties of porous silica glass surfaces through precursor chemistry,
  • UV grafting of co-mixed monomers to customize the surface properties of PDMS microfluidic channels.

Sol-gel derived reversible corrosion and weathering protection coatings for preservation of historic glass and other artefacts not changing the original characteristics of the pieces or affecting the materials (CSIC).

Enhancing the corrosion and leaching resistance of commercially produced glasses, including the containers for storage and transport of medicals (TNUAD):

  • development of novel glass compositions with enhanced chemical durability,
  • development of processes for subsequent handling and surface treatment of commercial glasses through modification of their surface chemistry and/or development of coating technologies applicable in industrial-scale production, and resulting in increased chemical durability of the surfaces.

Corrosion and radiation resistance of glass fibre insulations in nuclear power plants (TNUAD):

  • kinetics and thermodynamics of glass fibres dissolution used as thermal insulation in nuclear power plants to prevent critical situations in case of loss-of-coolant accidents,
  • the influence of gamma irradiation and temperature on the chemical durability of glass fibres quantified by static leaching tests of irradiated and high-temperature irradiated glass fibres,
  • performed in distilled water and in a coolant solution,
  • impact of radiation dose and temperature on the glass mechanical properties and development of a methodology for routine validation of various types of glass fibrous insulations used in nuclear reactors.

Hollow glass microspheres for catalyst supports (FSU):

  • alumino-borate materials, boron-free material and surface-nitrated hollow glass microbeads with diameter below 1 mm as catalyst supports for water-treatment applications,
  • glass microbeads as substrates for TiO2 and other transition-metal oxide-based functional coatings.

Magnetic foams for electromagnetic shielding (UNIPD):

  • multifunctional waste-derived iron-containing glass-ceramics as lightweight aggregates in concrete, offering electromagnetic shielding.

Opto-mechanical devices and MEMS (FSU):

  • development of routes for printing conventionally incompatible materials or their precursors in parallel, at the limits of lateral resolution,
  • transferring process knowledge from co-firing of 2D tape-structures to 3D printed structures.

Nanoporous coatings on 3D scaffolds for gas sensing (UNIPD):

  • transparent glass scaffolds as the basis for functional devices, e.g. for novel optical gas sensors,
  • sol-gel derived and nano-particles containing nanoporous coated transparent glass scaffolds with gas sensing functionalities.

Inorganic polymer based scaffolds for water filtration (UNIPD):

  • highly porous glass-based geopolymers with distinctive hierarchical porosity and/or additional porosity created by casting suspensions into the voids of sacrificial 3D printed polymeric scaffolds,
  • identical concept applied to novel mixtures comprising waste glasses.

Evaluation of corrosion and leaching resistance of surface modified glasses by combination of corroded surface examination and chemical analysis of corrosive media (TNUAD):

  • study of composition – structure – property relationships of oxide glasses leading to the methodology enabling the prediction of glass compositions with enhanced chemical durability,
  • development of optimized chemical composition of crystal glass with enhanced chemical durability and weathering resistibility.

Defect and scratch-resistant coatings for glass structural components (CSIC, FSU):

  • sol-gel derived inorganic films, in particular TiO2, SiO2, and ZrO2 based films containing SiO2 and ZrO2 nanoparticles prepared by acid catalysis for repair of sandblasting damage, resulting in improved optical transmission mechanical properties of glass substrates,
  • Surface-mechanical analyses and quantitative scratch testing.

Hardening and strengthening of glass by heat treatment in controlled atmosphere (TNUAD):

  • new surface treatments (including coatings, hybrids, etc.) that efficiently prevent glass strength degradation by contact damage,
  • identification of structural sites where strength controlling defects preferentially form,
  • understanding the influence of surface composition and topography on initiation of surface flaws,
  • development and optimisation of technological processes leading to enhancing the glass strength through controlled annealing of commercial glasses in controlled atmosphere, with possible combination of thermal and chemical strengthening through combined introduction of thermal compressive stresses and introduction of chemically modified surface layers with enhanced defect tolerance.

Large-area glass processing, including glass-glass lamination and large-area joining (FSU):

  • upscaling of functional layers deposition methods and methods of substrate pre-treatment, and their assembly into functional devices, including double- or multiple lamination, thin glass integration, substrate and cover treatments and various other aspects,
  • providing an infrastructural basis, process experience and know-how for transition from laboratory to product qualification, including in-depth characterization and understanding of the properties of laminated glass.

Dense or porous glass-ceramics obtained by direct firing of mixtures of recycled glass and Fe-rich metallurgical slags (UNIPD, FAU):

  • layered glass-ceramics with low density, layered structure but negligible water absorption and good mechanical properties from recycled glass/waste mixtures,
  • highly porous glass-based foams as particularly attractive building materials with exceptional thermal properties, strength and chemical stability,
  • effect of partial crystallization on crushing strength of highly porous glass-based foams,
  • glass foams derived from soda-lime glass cullet coupled with other inorganic waste, such as red mud from the Bayer process of bauxite and their testing in terms of their hydrolytic stability.

Novel glasses-based materials from inorganic polymerization (UNIPD, FAU):

  • geopolymers based on glass-rich waste-derived mixtures as new binders for the building industry with optimised strength and chemical stability,
  • geopolymers from alkali activation of glasses with engineered chemical composition, prepared in the form of fine powders by unconventional techniques, such as flame synthesis, from low cost materials,
  • open-celled glass foams with controlled porosity (dimension and distribution of pores) from glasses of different chemical composition, including pharmaceutical borosilicate glass and bio-glasses,
  • open-celled glass foams as an alternative to transparent glass scaffolds for the functionalisation with nano-porous coatings and the development of novel gas sensors.