Potassium is an ingredient in many of Corning’s technical glasses. For example, it plays a key role in the ion-exchange process that helps give Corning® Gorilla® Glass its toughness. But Dr. Adam Ellison, technology delivery officer for Corning Glass Technologies, has been intrigued by potassium since his graduate school days, when he made a discovery that defied conventional wisdom about how glasses are structured.
Sodium is often the atom of choice when people are trying to describe the structure of a glass that contains alkali. Many scientists assumed that elements in the same family – e.g., potassium, lithium, rubidium, cesium – would behave the same way. However, Ellison discovered that’s not true. “Potassium is so big that other atoms have to organize themselves around it,” he explains.