Centrifuge machine for the production of glass microspheres


Glass microspheres represent a class of additives that offer enhanced mechanical
performance, process control and cost benefits for the: (1) Biomedical sector - orthopaedic
implants/cements, dental pastes & maxillofacial implants; and (2) Industrial sector - oil
extraction, waterless gas fracking, water purification, transportation and aerospace. In 2013
the global microscopic glass spheres market was valued at US$3.4 billion [microspheres.us]
and projected to reach US$5.9 billion by 2019 with growth driven by emerging applications,
superior structural properties and increased demand for efficiency. Current crushing or milling
methods are energy and temperature intensive affording geometrical irregularities and
changes in the crystal morphology and thereby structural properties. Deficiencies include (1)
non-homogeneous grain structure; (2) decreased tensile strength; (3) increased wear; and (4)
premature mechanical failure.
GTS wishes to conduct a Research project to assess the technical and commercial feasibility
of designing, engineering and testing a small machine capable of utilising the energy
associated with molten glass to (ideally) form uniform sub-micron glass spheres or (as a
compromise) glass fibres or flakes which could act as precursors to spherification. Initial core
focus will be placed upon servicing the biomedical industry, specifically for orthopaedic
implants. Global health organisations including the NHS will economically benefit from
efficiencies related to faster, less traumatic surgeries, faster mobilisation of patients and
reduced risk of implant failure thus avoiding costly revision surgery. Similar benefits are also
feasible for dental and maxillofacial surgical procedures which require implant coatings,
cements and pastes. Emphasis will also be placed on exploring whether acquired know-how
could allow technology transfer to glass sphere production for industrial applications e.g. oil
and gas.

Lead Participant

Project Cost

Grant Offer

Glass Technology Services Ltd, Sheffield £187,706 £ 100,000


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