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This claims to be the toughest and strongest glass to date – virtually unbreakable and inspired by … mollusks

One of the big problems with smartphones today is the ease with which they can be broken. Although in recent years there have been more and more resistant screen protectors, fragility is still present and carelessness can cause the screen to be shattered. Canadian researchers have a solution: a glass that is inspired by the shells of some mollusks.

Scientists at McGill University in Canada have developed a new type of glass inspired by the inner layer of mollusks. Transparent and hard as glass but at the same time with the resistance of a plastic.

Imitating the mother-of-pearl of mollusks

The material is composed of glass and acrylic to imitate mother-of-pearl. Nacre is the substance found inside the shells of some mollusks. It is formed mainly from calcium carbonate, organic matter, and water. It stands out especially for the rigidity it has like a glass but at the same time the resistance of a soft material that absorbs impacts.


Representation of the microscopic structure of mother of pearl, with rigid layers (brown rectangles) and soft and elastic compounds between them (black lines). Via Wikipedia.

To achieve those characteristics the structure of the nacre is rigid and layered, but with soft proteins that are highly elastic. That is, it intersperses rigid and lined layers with soft and elastic biopolymers that “stick” these rigid layers. The union of these two compounds makes it “3000 times stronger than the materials” alone.

To create their new unbreakable glass, the researchers replicated mother-of-pearl with glass and acrylic flakes. The result is an incredibly strong and tough material. The problem? It is opaque. Hence, later the researchers adjusted the refractive index of acrylic to adjust it to that of glass to make the mixture transparent.


A) Material created by researchers. B) Microscopic view of the material. C) Mother-of-pearl in a mollusk. D) Microscopic view of the nacre.

According to the researchers, their new glass is three times stronger (scratch resistance) than normal glass. Likewise, it becomes up to cinco times more resistant to fractures (shock resistance) than traditional glass.

They claim that it is an easy and cheap material to produce. That is why they hope that this technology can be future-proofed for addition to products that currently require durability enhancements. In future work, the researchers plan to investigate ways to change the material’s color, conductivity, and other properties. In the meantime, we have the greatest hope in Corning with its Gorilla Glass for lenses and displays.

Via | Futurity
More information | ScienceDaily