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Information for Researchers No. 48 | 2 September 2014
Priority Programme „Topological Engineering of Ultra-strong Glasses “ (SPP 1594)

The Senate of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) has established a Priority Programme entitled ”Topological Engineering of Ultra-strong Glasses” (SPP 1594). The programme started in 2012 is designed to run for six years. Applications are now invited for the second three-year period of this Priority Programme.

Glasses have often been acknowledged as the intrinsically strongest man-made engineering material. Mainly for their low resistance to surface damage, however, the uniquely high levels of intrinsic strength can presently not be made use of. If only a fraction of this theoretical value could be obtained in a large-scale material, this would pave the way towards numerous novel, society-changing applications.

The scientific vision of the Priority Programme is two-fold:

  • a significant breakthrough in the understanding of the mechanical properties of disordered solids, overcoming empirical or semi-empirical approaches and, hence, providing concrete physical and chemical tools for the dedicated design of stiffness, strength and toughness of inorganic and metallic glasses, and
  • overcoming the step towards glasses with GPa strength by demonstrating defect-tolerant materials and toughening strategies based on ab initio understanding of the interplay between stress fields and volume and surface topology.

To this end, the Priority Programme is dedicated to the exploration of the mechanical properties of disordered materials on a molecular or atomic level, bridging the fields of metallic glasses and inorganic oxide glasses. It considers the topological origin of elasticity, plasticity and fracture in these two classes of materials with the objective to set the path towards the design of glasses with superior toughness, defect tolerance and/or stiffness. Projects should pay particular attention to

  • the identification of general, material-independent topological constraints which may act as levers for controlling mechanical properties,
  • the combination of experimental approaches and computational modelling of the stress-response of glasses and early stages of damage infliction, and
  • the interplay between size and time effects, stress-corrosion and the chemical aspect of fracture.

To reach these goals, the working programme of the Priority Programme comprises three focus areas, i.e. computational simulation, metallic glasses and inorganic oxide glasses, with the investigation of the materials’ response to stress and defect-infliction on either of these areas being the highest research priority. In this context, atomistic simulation is seen as the link between experimental approaches and continuum equations. The three areas are integrated into four major cross-sectional topics, namely

  • the investigation of dynamic fracture and brittleness, in case of experimental work preferentially with in-situ techniques,
  • the investigation of sub-critical fracture and stress corrosion from the perspective of the underlying chemistry and transport phenomena in high stress fields,
  • the multi-scale investigation of elasticity, plasticity and hardness in relation to bulk topology through combining mechanical analyses with structural analyses, and
  • the ab initio exploration of strategies for toughening inorganic oxide glasses as well as metallic glasses.

Proposals are expected to address the correlation of topological constraints with macroscopic mechanical properties in the context of one or more of these major topics. The proposals should provide a perspective towards application-related issues, e.g., by aiming for the development of quantitative models for property prediction in specific, practically relevant compositions. The proposals are required to unambiguously state which of the four major topics are covered.

In providing the fundamental understanding and transferring it to cross-disciplinary toughening strategies (“topological engineering”), projects should enable a significant leap in practical strength and plasticity, and hence enable a new generation of glassy materials.

In the framework of the Priority Programme, the terms “ab initio” and “topological engineering” refer to bottom-up approaches of acquiring and applying scientific knowledge and tools for the design of glasses. The topological scale, in this context, comprises the short- and medium-range structural architecture, determined by, e.g., potentials and spatial relations between constituents on the atomistic level, packing density, molecular interactions at surfaces, and their consequences on meso- and macro-scale processes under mechanical load. The multi-material approach (metallic and inorganic oxide glasses) arises from the similarity of topological considerations and expected synergies between potential toughening mechanisms and design strategies.

The highly interdisciplinary approach shall bridge the traditional gap between the communities of metallic and inorganic oxide glasses. To this end, proposals are expected to actively involve or provide tangible cooperation between various branches of materials science and engineering, condensed-matter physics, solid-state and interface chemistry, and especially computational simulation and are expected to enable significant synergy and cross-stimulation.

The consideration of both surface and bulk topology is included in the programme in order to reveal the interplay between intrinsic and extrinsic strength and hardness. However, the investigation of coating problems alone is excluded. Also, polymer materials, macroscopic composite materials and glass-ceramics are not covered in this framework. Classical engineering approaches for phenomenological toughening by, e.g., ion exchange, thermal toughening, surface crystallisation and conventional mechanical surface treatment, will not be supported in the programme. Stand-alone fracture mechanics investigations are also excluded.

Proposals must be submitted in English no later than 10 June 2015 via the DFG’s electronic submission system “elan” selecting “SPP 1594”. Please follow the guidelines for project submission according to forms 50.05 and 54.01. Proposals by one applicant must not exceed 20 pages. Joint proposals may comprise five additional pages for each additional applicant. If you are using the elan system for the first time, please note that you need to register yourself and your institutional address before being able to submit a proposal. Also, if you are planning to move to a different institution (e.g. with a Temporary Position for Principal Investigators) you need to register the new institutional address beforehand. Please make sure that all applicants of your project (in case there is more than one) start their registration at the latest two weeks before the submission deadline. The registration requests are handled manually by DFG staff.

Please notice the rules for publication lists that have been modified: Beside the general bibliography every proposal should include a list of up to ten publications that relate directly to the project. Further, the number of publications that may be listed in any academic CV has been increased to up to ten as well. These publications need to be classified as a) refereed publications (published articles and monographs; accepted articles with note of acceptance by the journal) or b) other publications.

Proposals will be evaluated in the course of a colloquium in Jena with short talks and poster presentations, currently scheduled for September 2015.

Further Information

The DFG’s electronic portal “elan” can be found at:

Proposal guidelines and preparation instructions are outlined in DFG forms 50.05 and 54.01, which can be found on the DFG’s website at:

For scientific enquiries concerning the scope of the programme, please contact the Priority Programme’s coordinator:

Further instructions on submitting a proposal are supplied by the DFG:

For scientific matters:

For administrative matters: