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henry copeland: The atomic structure of glass, yet another discovery generated by a mistake: pllqt.it/IKVsU2Just two atoms in thickness, the glass was an accidental discovery, Muller said. The scientists had been making graphene, a two-dimensional sheet of carbon atoms in a chicken wire crystal formation, on copper foils in a quartz furnace. They noticed some "muck" on the graphene, and upon further inspection, found it to be composed of the elements of everyday glass, silicon and oxygen. They concluded that an air leak had caused the copper to react with the quartz, also made of silicon and oxygen. This produced the glass layer on the would-be pure graphene. Besides its sheer novelty, Muller said, the work answers an 80-year-old question about the fundamental structure of glass. Scientists, with no way to directly see it, had struggled to understand it: it behaves like a solid, but was thought to look more like a liquid. Now, the Cornell scientists have produced a picture of individual atoms of glass, and they found that it strikingly resembles a diagram drawn in 1932 by W.H. Zachariasen -- a longstanding theoretical representation of the arrangement of atoms in glass. "This is the work that, when I look back at my career, I will be most proud of," Muller said. "It's the first time that anyone has been able to see the arrangement of atoms in a glass."