Cyprus Native Develops Groundbreaking Glass Technology at U.S. School

Marios Demetriou, a senior research associate at Caltech, is one of the school’s major recent successes. Demetriou, a Greek from Cyprus, originally came to the United States in the 1990s as an undergraduate to study mechanical engineering at the University of Arizona. Almost immediately, he says he felt his attitude toward his studies begin to shift. “I was way more motivated once I got here,” Demetriou explains. “That’s the thing about the United States: It’s a country where people willing to work hard really have good prospects.”

After remaining in the United States to earn master’s and doctoral degrees, Demetriou began a postdoctoral research post at Caltech in 2001. It was an exciting place for him to be. Demetriou specializes in amorphous, or “glassy” metals. Unlike traditional metals, which must be shaved into shapes, glassy metals can be melted down to the consistency of honey and molded like plastic, resulting in far less wasted material. Such metals were invented at Caltech in the 1960s, but they were brittle, expensive to produce, and prone to cracking, which limited their commercial appeal. In 2011, however, Demetriou and his mentor had a breakthrough: They discovered a way to produce an amorphous metal that was as strong as the strongest steel, but less prone to cracking – a development that’s been called “ingenious.” “Humans have been working with steel for 3,000 years,” Demetriou says of the work. “It’s not very often something comes along that can actually compete with it.”

He’s certainly not alone in his enthusiasm. In 2011, Demetriou co-founded a startup, Glassimetal Technology, which aims to incorporate the metal into everyday products like dental implants, watches, and electronics. The firm already has a 10,000 square foot facility in Pasadena, California; five employees; and what Demetriou says is a sufficient amount of funding to allow it to exist “for the next several years.”

Demetriou will also have the option to work at his company full time. Unlike many other immigrants who face visa headaches if they want to work at a startup, Demetriou married an American citizen in 2005 and is now a citizen himself. “I’m really fortunate I decoupled my work situation and my citizenship,” he says, “It gives me real flexibility.”

 

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