What would it be like if no matter how hard you tried, you couldn’t break the screen of your phone? Or what if you could never get a chip in your windshield or break a drinking glass after it was dropped? You might not have to wait much longer for these things to become reality because a team of researchers has discovered a way to make glass almost as strong as steel.
The researchers are from the University of Tokyo’s Institute of Industrial Science, and according to their study in the journal Scientific Reports, they’ve come up with a way to make to make some extremely tough glass. They started with normal glass and mixed it with alumina which is an oxide of aluminum. Alumina is very hard and just below a diamond on the Mohs Scale which measures a mineral’s hardness.
But there has always been a problem for researchers when they mix alumina with glass. Silicon dioxide crystals would form when the mix would meet the surface of the container. This made the glass unusable. The researchers found a way around the problem through a process they refer to as aerodynamic levitation. Essentially, instead of mixing the substances in a container, they mixed it in the air.
The researchers did this by using a laser to mix the substances together while holding them in the air from below with oxygen gas. By doing it in this way, they were able to add more alumina to the glass mixture than ever before, and in the process were able to produce a transparent piece of glass that is almost as strong and hard as steel.
But don’t start searching for the new glass quite yet. While the researchers found a way in November 2015 to make the glass strong, they haven’t worked out how it would be mass produced. They said it may take five years to develop a workable process, but that it is indeed possible and on the horizon.
The applications for such a glass are endless since it can also be made thin. You might someday see it as car windshields, on buildings, and as tablet and phone screens. The look of horror brought on when you have dropped your phone onto the ground could be a thing of the past.