DURYEA – New fiber optic cable that can direct very specific light frequencies to kill cancer cells deep in the body without heat. Tiny technological marvels – a dozen could fit in your palm – used to maneuver satellites orbiting Earth. Night vision goggles, infrared sensors, and the domes on the front of shoulder-launched Javelin and Stinger smart missiles.
Oh, and soon: a special objective that should help make nuclear fusion a reality.
“We do more than just cut glass,” Bill James of Schott North America explained during a tour of the company’s Duryea plant on Friday. The Vice President of Research and Development eagerly presented the plant’s extensive line of state-of-the-art products to U.S. Representative Matt Cartwright, National Science Foundation Director Sethuraman Panchanathan, and Penn State Chancellor Scranton, Marwan Wafa, pointing out that much of the success is due to the federal government. funding and a close partnership with Penn State University.
Cartwright “really has our backs,” James said of the rep’s help securing federal research funds. “And it’s great to have Penn State in our backyard.”
Cartwright and the others began what amounted to the site’s bread-and-butter work: a room with furnaces on an upper deck that melt glass components into a brilliant orange liquid that oozes from platinum nozzles below, where workers can direct the flux into molds which, in turn, are placed in annealing furnaces.
Furnace temperatures are tightly regulated to cool the glass at the right rate to achieve the necessary properties, explained Kyle Narcoonis, who oversees that particular department. Some glasses will temper for several days. Other products may enter another set of annealing furnaces in an adjoining room to be quenched for up to three months. Friday cast molds are used in lasers and are a best seller.
The tour stopped in front of a table showing the various stages of production, then headed to the research department, where James and site manager Rob Gomeau happily showed off the innovations the company is developing through to federal dollars and Penn State support.
The tiny parts used in the satellites prompted a joke from James. “I like to tell the team that they are out of this world.” But the domes of US anti-tank javelins and anti-aircraft missiles were topical, as Cartwright noted that these missiles are being put to good use by the Ukrainian military resisting a Russian invasion.
James said one of the products being developed will be used in new efforts to produce nuclear fusion. While current technology creates energy in nuclear power plants (and exploding warheads) by fission, the splitting of atoms, fusion creates energy by combining atoms – much like the sun works. Scientists worked for decades on a way to control fusion that creates less radioactive material and would provide almost unlimited fuel. James predicted that progress is being made so quickly that controlled fusion could be a reality within 15 years.
A worker dramatically turned off the lights in a room to show how a new fiber optic cable can direct light through a very fine filament to the other end, where it can be projected outward into different directions. The technology, James said, can be used to destroy cancer cells by adjusting the frequency of light waves to kill malignant cells while leaving other tissue unharmed.
At the end of the visit, a beaming Panchanathan said the facility showed the value of funding scientific research, both for the betterment of American citizens and in keeping the country competitive on a global scale.
“The investment helps unleash talent and ideas across the country. I’m thrilled to be here and see him in person.
Contact Mark Guydish at 570-991-6112 or on Twitter @TLMarkGuydish