Japanese scientists create unbreakable hybrid glass that’s as strong as steel

How would it be if there could be a glass that is unbreakable when it falls down. If this happens, it could be used to make break-resistant drinking glasses; to shatterproof screens for devices such as smartphones, tablets, laptops, and e-readers; to stronger windows for vehicles and buildings. Looks like this may become a reality very soon.

Scientists in Japan have created a new type of hybrid glass that’s almost as strong as steel and as light and thin as regular glass and nearly unbreakable. This discovery could radically change the commercial use of the new glass in phones, cars, buildings and technology.

Researchers at the University of Tokyo’s Institute of Industrial Science have published their findings of their experiments in the journal Nature and the new glass should be available for use within five years.

The glass contains aluminum oxide compounds, which are well known for their toughness. Glass is based on silica (silicon dioxide), which is the main component of sand. The Tokyo team of researchers have come up with an innovative way of creating durable glass by increasing in the mix the amount of alumina, which is an oxide of aluminum. When mixed with silicon dioxide, it results in an exceptionally safe, tough and indestructible glass.

However, when the material scientists previously tried to mix alumina with glass, they found little success, as the raw mixture used to crystalize when it came in contact with the container.

The scientists explain that they have used a technique called aerodynamic levitation, which has managed to address that problem. The Japanese team manufactured their glass without a container to avoid the formation of any pesky crystals. They crushed alumina and tantalum oxide powders together at high pressure, applied heat, and then they used oxygen gas to levitate their samples in air and allowed the chemical elements to synthesize together. The result is a transparent glass, made from 50 percent alumina that they say is as strong as steel.

The glass underwent hardness, strength, and elasticity tests including Young’s modulus and Vickers methods. According to the tests, the glass was twice as strong as typical glass and is obviously competent to that of iron and steel.

According to the scientists, the new method can produce a “perfectly transparent, thin, light, optically-excellent glass.” Currently, only a small quantity of the glass has been manufactured but the scientists are working on a way to bring it to market.

“We will establish a way to mass-produce the new material shortly,” Atsunobu Masuno, an assistant professor at the University, told The Asahi Shimbun. “We are looking to commercialise the technique within five years.”

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