Aqueous corrosion of glass may result in the formation of an alteration layer in the glass surface of which chemical composition and network structure are different from those of the bulk glass. Since corrosion occurs far below the glass-transition temperature, the alteration layer cannot fully relax to the new structure with the lowest possible energy. Molecular dynamics simulations suggested that such a network will contain highly strained chemical bonds, which can be manifested as a stress in the alteration layer. Common techniques to measure stress in thin films or surface layers were found inadequate for thick monolithic glass samples corroded in water. Here, we explored the use of spectroscopic ellipsometry to test the presence of internal stress in the alteration layer formed by aqueous corrosion of glass. A procedure for analyses of spectroscopic ellipsometry data to determine birefringence in the alteration layer was developed. Findings with the established fitting procedure suggested that a stress builds up in the corroded surface layer of a boroaluminosilicate glass if there is a change in relative humidity, pH, or electrolyte concentration of the environment to which the glass surface is exposed. A similar process may occur in other types of glass, and it may affect the surface properties of corroded glass objects.
Keywords: glass corrosion; internal stress in thin films; porous materials; prism coupler; spectroscopic ellipsometry.