These tiny beads are made of glass and are on the order of 50 micrometers in diameter. They are manufactured so that they become hollow, allowing the wall-thickness to be a few nanometers and to contain hundreds of thousands of nanometer-sized pores from the outside wall to the hollow inside.
The purpose of the submission of this entry is to showcase the incredible small-scale technology that can be developed with ceramic materials – namely glass. The glass beads were manufactured by the Savannah River National Laboratory team and the Clemson team performed the electron microscopy characterization leading to the photo. The compositions of the glass were engineered so that when processed correctly, they would sustain a hollow structure and the glass walls would be infiltrated with hundreds of thousands of nanometer-sized pores. The process conditions can even be manipulated to alter bead size, glass wall thickness, and the size and amount of pores through the glass wall. These beads can possibly revolutionize the way fluids and gases are stored for use. The pores are small enough that fluids and even gases could be contained under normal conditions. However, if activated properly, the pores would allow a path for a gas to exit the “container” when it is ready to be used. The SEM image depicts one of these porous and hollow glass beads. It can be seen that the top of the bead broke when handling as they are very fragile. This defective bead reveals the inside of the glass wall. It can be seen that the wall thickness of this particular bead is approximately 2 micrometers thick. Small pores can also be seen within this cross section of the glass wall, indicating a continuous path from the inside to the outside of the hollow bead.
Funding sources for research represented by the image: