Making a balloon out of glass might not seem like such a great idea on the surface – but Hank Rawlins, MetE’91, MS MetE’92, a graduate student in metallurgical engineering, thinks glass balloons might turn out to be the best way to put monitoring equipment in the upper atmosphere.
Rawlins took third place in the 2007 Strength in Glass Contest, a year-long challenge for university students interested in identifying marketable new products, engineering opportunities and cost savings that would be possible “if glass of any type were available at 50 times its current strength.”
Rawlins received $5,000 for his proposal of “Eversphere Glass Balloons.” The concept involves high strength, thin-walled vacuum glass balloons. The balloons would have a greater lifting force than helium or hydrogen balloons and would allow scientists to permanently place monitoring equipment in the upper atmosphere.
The competition was sponsored by the Glass Manufacturing Industry Council (GMIC), the glass and optical materials division of the American Ceramic Society, the International Commission on Glass, the Center for Glass Research and the National Science Foundation’s International Materials Institute on New Functionalities in Glasses.
“The industry now has a clear look at some of the amazing products that will be possible when the barriers to stronger glass are overcome and the target strengths are achieved,” says Michael Greenman, executive director of GMIC. “The next step of this process will be the creation and announcement of an X-Prize in Glass.”
The X-Prize in Glass would be similar to the $10 million Ansari Prize, which was offered in 2005 to encourage privately funded space flight.