Glasses, unlike crystals, are intrinsically brittle due to the absence of microstructure-controlled toughening, creating fundamental constraints for their technological applications. Consequently, strategies for toughening glasses without compromising their other advantageous properties have been long sought after but elusive. Here we report exceptional toughening in oxide glasses via paracrystallization, using aluminosilicate glass as an example. By combining experiments and computational modelling, we demonstrate the uniform formation of crystal-like medium-range order clusters pervading the glass structure as a result of paracrystallization under high-pressure and high-temperature conditions. The paracrystalline oxide glasses display superior toughness, reaching up to 1.99 ± 0.06 MPa m1/2, surpassing any other reported bulk oxide glasses, to the best of our knowledge. We attribute this exceptional toughening to the excitation of multiple shear bands caused by a stress-induced inverse transformation from the paracrystalline to amorphous states, revealing plastic deformation characteristics. This discovery presents a potent strategy for designing highly damage-tolerant glass materials and emphasizes the substantial influence of atomic-level structural variation on the properties of oxide glasses.
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The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding authors upon request.
The software used for data analysis is available from H.S. upon request.
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H.T. thanks the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation for financial support. H.S. was supported by the NSF under grant no. DMR-1611064. W.X. was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant no. 12104398) and the China Postdoctoral Science Foundation (grant no. 2021M692840). Nanjing University of Science and Technology thanks the support of the National Natural Science Foundation of China (nos. 92163215, 52174364 and 52101143). Z.Z. acknowledges financial support from the Shanghai Science and Technology Committee, China (no. 22JC1410300), and Shanghai Key Laboratory of Material Frontiers Research in Extreme Environments, China (no. 22dz2260800). This work was also supported by the European Research Council under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (proposal no. 787527), the National Nature Science Foundation of China (no. 11804010), Jiangsu Funding Program for Excellent Postdoctoral Talent, and Major Science and Technology Infrastructure Project of Material Genome Big-science Facilities Platform supported by the Municipal Development and Reform Commission of Shenzhen. We acknowledge DESY (Hamburg, Germany), a member of the Helmholtz Association HGF, for the provision of experimental facilities. Parts of this research were carried out at PETRA III beamline P02.1. Beamtime was allocated by an in-house contingent. We thank C. Peng at Zhengzhou Research Institute for Abrasives & Grinding in China for the measurements of hardness and fracture toughness; L. Yuan, R. Njul and T. Withers at BGI for valuable discussions and technical supports; Y. Zhao at Yanshan University in China for the preparation of glass ceramics and standard SENB measurements; and B. Zhang at Chongqing University in China for the in situ TEM tensile tests.
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Tang, H., Cheng, Y., Yuan, X. et al. Toughening oxide glasses through paracrystallization. Nat. Mater. 22, 1189–1195 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41563-023-01625-x
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