Ultrafast laser system enables scientists to weld glass to metal.

A group of scientists have been successful in welding glass & metal together using a pulsed laser system. Using very short picosecond pulses of infrared light in tracks along the elements they were able to fuse together various materials such as Sapphire & Quartz to metals such as Titanium, Aluminium & Stainless steel.

The process which was achieved at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, relies on extremely short pulses sent from the laser. The different materials which are to be welded are placed next to each other, and the laser is focused through the optical material to provide a very small and highly intense spot at the interface between the two materials, megawatt peak power was achieved over an area just a few microns across. What is then created is a microplasma which is like a tiny ball of lightening inside the material, covered by a highly confined malt region. Successful tests were done with welds remaining intact at -50 to 90 degrees to provide evidence that they were robust enough to cope in extreme conditions

At present any products that require metals & glass to be held together are normally done so by using adhesives, but these methods tend to release organic chemicals from the adhesive which can lead to a reduction in product life as well as being messy to apply.

This new welding method may be a huge step forward in manufacturing & design options given that traditionally the difficulty in welding such different materials together would inevitably cause the glass to shatter due to the high temperatures & the difference in thermal expansion.