A team of scientists, at the University of Tokyo’s Institute of Industrial Science, has created an entirely new type of glass that is nearly as tough as steel. According to the researchers, the breakthrough could herald a whole new generation of incredibly sturdy windows and tableware. What is more, it could be used to produce super-durable displays for a range of electronics, including smartphones, tablets and computers.
Recently published in Nature’s Scientific Reports journal, the research involved the development of a new, and more innovative, technique of glass production. Commonly-available varieties of glass contain silica (i.e. silicon dioxide), which is in turn strengthened by adding small amounts of alumina, an oxide of aluminium. However, mixing in larger quantities of the substance actually causes crystallization of the glass upon contact with the container.
To eliminate this problem, the scientists devised a new processing technique that does not require any container at all. In this method, the chemical components, of oxide glass, are pushed, using gas, into the air, where they combine and synthesize to form the final product. This approach allowed the researchers to substantially increase the amount of alumina added to the mixture. The result? A transparent, colorless glass that is extremely strong, and contains nearly 50-percent alumina. Speaking about the breakthrough, Atsunobu Masuno, a scientist at the University of Tokyo and a member of the research team, said:
We will establish a way to mass-produce the new material shortly. We are looking to commercialize the technique within five years.
The Young’s Modulus (basically, an indicator of rigidity) of the newly-developed material is twice as that of regular oxide glass, and is almost the same as that of steel and iron. The researchers believe that the glass could soon be used to create lightweight products with impressive optical properties.