Japanese Scientists Create Nearly Unbreakable Glass For Commercial Use

 Japanese Scientists Create Nearly Unbreakable Glass For Commercial UseJapanese Scientists Create Nearly Unbreakable Glass For Commercial Use


A group of scientists at the University of Tokyo’s Institute of Industrial Science in Japan believes they have discovered a way to make glass nearly indestructible. The researchers behind the project recently published their findings in Nature's Scientific Reports outlining the intriguing results of their experiments. If it works, the technology could revolutionize certain industries and lead to a wide array of applications, such as windows for buildings and vehicles, many of which currently utilize what is known as safety glass. Unbreakable glass — or as nearly unbreakable as you could get it — would also be a welcome addition to the personal electronics sector for things on the order of screens for tablets, computers, smartphones and readers like Nook and Kindle.

Safety Glass

Safety glass, as we currently know it, is made in one of two ways: either tempered or laminated. Tempered glass is made by treating the glass as it is heated and cooled to increase its tensile strength, making it difficult but not impossible to break. If it does break, it snaps apart into rounded chunks or fragments, rather than breaking up into sharp, jagged pieces when shattering or exploding on impact. Tempered glass is used in windows and tables. Laminated glass, on the other hand, is created by sandwiching a sheet of polyvinyl butyral (PVB) between two pieces of glass. The glass is essentially strengthened by the layering and reinforcement. When it does break, the PVB basically acts like tape to bind the pieces together, instead of allowing the shards to scatter and fall. It's commonly seen in car windshields.


Safety Glass Used in Windshields Keeps Shattered Glass from ScatteringSafety Glass Used in Windshields Keeps Shattered Glass from Scattering


New Technology

The glass the Japanese have come up with uses a different method for creating safer, stronger glass. The secret ingredient for their product is reportedly alumina. It’s an oxide of aluminum, and mixing it with silicon dioxide purportedly makes glass much more durable. Previously, the problem with using this method was it caused the alumina and silicon dioxide mixture to crystallize as soon as it came into contact with any type of container, which ultimately prevented glass from being formed. The Tokyo team got around this by developing a system for making glass that didn't require containers, period. They managed this feat by using gas to push the chemical components into the air. In that way the aerodynamic levitation, as the process is called, allows the components to synthesize together. The outcome is glass that’s 50 percent alumina and said to rival the Young’s modulus of steel and iron, an indicator for measuring rigidity in solid materials.

Industrial Science

According to the scientists, the new technique can produce a transparent product that’s light and thin with excellent optical properties. Unfortunately, it will be a while before it starts showing up in any new products or for existing applications where safety glass is commonly used. University of Tokyo assistant professor Atsunobu Masuno was quoted in The Asahi Shimbun as saying, “We are looking to commercialize the technique within five years." Barring any unforeseen holdups, after that we should begin seeing this promising new glass in a plethora of manufacturing aspects for both commercial and industrial use.

Source: The Asahi Shimbun