Strongest & toughest glass known developed by the McGill University scientists.
Scientists from the McGill University develop stronger & tougher glass, inspired by inner status of mollusk shells. Rather than shattering upon impact, new material has resiliency of plastic and could be used to improve cell-phone screens in the future, among other applications.
While strategies such as tempering & laminating can help reinforce glass, they’re costly and no longer work when the surface is damaged. “Until now there were trade-offs between high strength, toughness & transparency. Our new material isn’t only 3 times stronger than the normal glass, but also greater than 5 times greater fracture resistant,” says Allen Ehrlicher, an Associate Professor in Department of Bioengineering at the McGill University.
Nature as master of design
Drawing inspiration from nature, scientist created a new glass & acrylic composite material that mimics nacre or mama of gem. “Nature is a master of design. Studying structure of biological materials, and understanding how they work offers inspiration & sometimes games, for new materials,” says Ehrlicher.
“Amazingly, nacre has rigidity of a stiff material & durability of a soft material, giving it the best of both worlds,” he explains. “It is made of stiff pieces of chalk like matter that are layered with soft proteins that are highly-elastic. This structure produces exceptional strength of making it 3000 times tougher than the materials that compose it.”
The scientists took architecture of nacre, and replicated it with layers of glass flakes & mural, yielding an exceptionally strong yet opaque material that can be created freely & inexpensively. They then went a step ahead to make composite optically-transparent. “By tuning refractive index of the acrylic, we made it seamlessly blend with glass to make a perfectly transparent emulsion,” says lead author Ali Amini, a Postdoctoral Investigator at the McGill. As next steps, they strategize to improve it by incorporating smart technology allowing glass to change its properties like as color, mechanics & conductivity.
Lost invention of flexible glass
Flexible glass is assumedly a lost invention from the time of reign of the Roman Emperor, Tiberius Caesar. Consistent with popular historical accounts by Roman authors, Gaius Plinius Secundus & Petronius, inventor brought a drinking bowl made of material before Emperor. When bowl was put to test to break it, it merely dented rather than shattering.
After inventor swore, he was the only person who knew how to create material, Tiberius had the man executed, frightening that the glass would devalue gold & silver because it might be greatly valuable.
“When I think about the story of Tiberius, I am glad that our material innovation leads to publication instead of execution,” says Ehrlicher.
The findings were published on Science.