For several years, American company Corning Inc. has been the leading supplier of glass displays for the top mobile device manufacturer like Apple and Samsung. And first used in the 1st generation of iPhone during Steve Jobs time back in 2007, it is dubbed as the toughest glass displays available even until today. Their latest product, Corning Gorilla Glass 4, is currently being used in the production of Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+ that features a functional dual-edge screen. Its more svelte and more durable, but it seems people did not stop there. They want more.
Demands for ultra-thin mobile phone devices is still high, so there are plenty of rooms for improvement in this field. The only problem though, as display screen becomes less and less beefy (of course, with the current materials and method used in the production) the less durable it becomes and more susceptible to breakage. But things were going to change.
In Japan, researchers found a new set of materials and mix using different approach to produced glass. Comes in powder form, mixing aluminum oxide with tantalum pentoxide paves the way for new type of glass that can maintain its strength while becoming less skinny. Though simple it might sound here, there are complexities involved and one such complexity is the method used in the production. Called “containerless processing”, this unconventional way of producing glass involves using an aerodynamic levitation furnace. After mixing the Al and Ta oxides in exact proportions, pelletized and cooled down slowly for 12 hours in air the by-products are then put into this furnace. Using oxygen gas flow to levitate the glass pellets, two powerful laser are used to melt these into glass at very high temperatures. After reaching 2000 degrees Celsius, the glass is then formed by turning off the lasers.
From measurements indicated in the Nature.com, the researchers were able to create glass that is 300 micrometer in thickness (CG Glass 4 is 1 mm; 300 um = 0.3 mm) with Young’s modulus ranging from 123 GPa to 145 Gpa (twice tougher than CG Glass 4 with 65.8 Gpa) using different oxides in combination to Al other than Ta oxide. Also, this new product can handle stress twice per square millimeter compared to CG Glass 4. Vickers hardness test of strengthened CG Glass 4 is around 596 kgf per square millimeter or equal to 6 GPa while the Japanese-made glass is 9.1 GPa. The results are quite impressive but in the exception of the refractive index value at 1.94 resulting to a 81% transmission of light that is lower compared to CG Gorilla 4 of 1.22 with 92% transmission. Researchers claim that this high refractive index (with respect to speed of light) and low transmission is due to the surface sample reflection and is not caused by scattering of light inside the glass. As you can see in the above image, the sample glass is indeed colorless and transparent. This indicates that the difference is negligible to the naked eye.
Availability of the said product is expected in the near future, maybe 5 years from now. But only then that we can know the “real thing” in contrast to the results obtained in the lab. Also, the article does not indicate if we can expect a “curved” glass from them (maybe, I really do not understand some of these, yikes!) but will know for sure. If you can share something related to this topic please post them as comments below.