There’s a new glass in town. The glass, developed with
the help of a unique NASA levitator facility, is available for
numerous commercial applications including lasers and optical

“We have patented a family of new glasses and have established
processes for making and using them in practical
applications,” said Dr. Richard (Rick) Weber, director of the
Glass Products Division of Containerless Research Inc., the
small company that invented and produces the glass in
Evanston, Ill. “We’re already making commercial quantities of
glass rods and plates for use in lasers,” he said.

REAl Glass — made from Rare Earth oxides, Aluminum oxide
and small amounts of silicon dioxide — has unique properties
that were identified using both the company’s containerless
processing techniques and a NASA ground-based research

As part of a NASA research grant for a proposed International
Space Station flight experiment, Weber conducted research in
the Electrostatic Levitator at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight
Center in Huntsville, Ala. The levitator, where molten spheres
of glowing material float with no visible means of support or
containment, is one of the nation’s few facilities where
scientists can process materials without using contaminating

“This shows how basic NASA research can lead to innovative
materials and new products that can benefit everybody,” said
Dr. Michael Wargo, Enterprise Scientist for materials science
in NASA’s Office of Biological and Physical Research in

Containerless Research’s development of applications and new
products for lasers, optical communications, and surgical
lasers is supported by grants from the National Science
Foundation and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.

“The development of REAl Glass shows how the Small Business
Innovation Research (SBIR) program works by building on good
ideas that come from basic research and helping small
businesses grow into commercial manufacturers of innovative
products,” said Dr. Winslow Sargeant, who directs the National
Science Foundation SBIR Commercialization Program for devices. “We are working with Containerless Research Inc. by supporting product research and development that can help them grow the business and continue to create new products and new jobs,” Sargeant explained.

REAl Glass has qualities useful for creating materials for
demanding optical applications. “We’ve taken many of the best
qualities of the current materials and created a new glass
that can be produced inexpensively,” Weber said.

One of the most promising uses of the glass is for lasers.
Whether it is a power laser for cutting metal for car bodies
or a medical laser used for surgery, the “heart” of lasers is
the gain medium, which is where REAl Glass can be used. This
critical component increases or amplifies light, resulting in
an intense, highly concentrated beam capable of precisely
cutting metal parts or surgically removing or repairing human

“Most surgical lasers now use expensive single crystals, which
limit the range of operating wavelength to very narrow bands,”
explained Weber. “REAl Glass would provide tunability, which
can give more control over surgical procedures, an important
factor in different types of surgery and for different skin
types. Our glass can provide efficient power lasers and expand
coverage to new wavelengths,” he said.

REAl Glass also provides a medium for next-generation optical
communications devices that need to be small, low-cost and
powerful to provide fiber for home connections for broadband
Internet. The company can customize the glass composition for
these uses. The family of REAl Glass materials is patented
under U.S. Patent No. 6,482,758 issued Nov. 19, 2002, and is
only available from Containerless Research Inc., or under

For information on NASA’s Electrostatic Levitator, a list of
peer-reviewed articles describing this research, and to
download photographs to accompany this news release, visit:

For information about REAI Glass and Containerless Research
Inc. on the Internet, visit: