REPAIRING GLASS LABELED PRODUCTS IS A SCIENCE FICTION That was the conclusion of a scientific paper published by a team of engineers at the University of Colorado Boulder, and it may sound like a pretty straightforward task.
But it is not.
For starters, there is no easy way to tell which brands are actually recycled glass and which are not.
The paper was published in the journal Science Advances and was authored by an international team of researchers led by the University’s Jeffrey Jaffe.
The team used a method called laser scanning, which can be done using laser scanning electron microscopy.
These scans reveal microscopic images of the inside of the glass that reveal tiny details such as the size and shape of the metal, how the glass is arranged, the shape of each side of the container and the shape and location of the edges.
A laser scan can also reveal how much energy is required to move a single atom.
And that’s what the researchers did.
They found that the amount of energy required to remove a single glass atom from a container of glass is about 10 million times lower than what is normally used for glass-making.
It’s also about 100 times lower for small glass bottles.
In other words, this is not just a scientific exercise, but an energy conservation technique.
“We’re actually able to measure how much power is needed to move one atom out of a glass container,” says lead author and CU Boulder professor of mechanical engineering Dr Robert Schmitt.
“It’s not a lot, but it’s significant.”
The researchers measured the energy required by a laser to move the atom of glass out of an empty container by using an instrument called a nanofloor-capacitor, which is a type of glass-coating electrode that can store a small amount of electricity.
A nanoflag can be used to increase the amount, but also to decrease it.
This is the same technique that’s used in a variety of other applications.
The scientists then calculated how much electricity was needed to remove the glass atom by using a more complex method called an electric current-resistance spectrometer.
They measured the current that was emitted as a result of the laser pulse as well as the electric resistance between the glass atoms.
By comparing the results with the amount required for the same amount of power, the team was able to find out which brands were actually recycled.
The researchers say that it’s likely that many of the brands of glass are not recycled because they were manufactured in a factory, in a way that is not very energy efficient, so it is very difficult to use the energy efficiency techniques that are available.
And it is possible that many glass products are still being manufactured in factories that do not have the right conditions for recycling.
“There are still lots of things that are being manufactured today that are not going to be recycled,” says Dr Schmitt, “so the next step is to look at the manufacturing process that’s happening in the factory.”
In the meantime, this technique will allow the researchers to test and assess the energy savings of different glass-manufacturing processes and products.
For example, it is likely that a product made in a glass factory could be reused if it had the right manufacturing process.
“In this study, we actually found that some products that have been re-manufactured by other manufacturers, such as in the case of recycled glass in a cupcake, have lower energy efficiency than the ones made by the same manufacturers,” says Professor Schmitt of the University.
He adds that it is also possible that some of the energy that is required for re-using glass could be recycled from other materials that are more energy-efficient, such in batteries.
It will be interesting to see whether this technique is adopted in other industries where it is feasible to recycle plastic and metal from existing manufacturing processes.
The article is reproduced with permission and was first published on April 14, 2020.