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Japanese materials scientists unveil 'unbreakable' glass

15:57 04 November 2015 Author :   The Staff

The molten glass is levitated and infused with alumina via a newly developed gas flow technique. Photo by University of Tokyo's Institute of Industrial Science

TOKYO,  (UPI) -- Shattered smartphone screens may soon be a thing of the past. Scientists in Japan say they've created a new type of glass stronger than most metals and nearly as tough as steel.

The glass is made by infusing silicon dioxide with alumina, an aluminum oxide. Traditional glass-making technologies complicate the introduction of alumina during the formation process, as the silicon dioxide crystallizes when it makes surface contact with a solid, like the alumina container.

Scientists at the University of Tokyo's Institute of Industrial Science solved this problem by developing a way to push alumina into the silicon dioxide using gases. They call the container-less process "aerodynamic levitation."

The colorless, transparent glass incorporates the alumina-infused gas flow during its synthesis. At the conclusion of its formation, the glass is 50 percent alumina and twice as strong as traditional glass.

"We will establish a way to mass-produce the new material shortly," researcher Atsunobu Masuno told Japanese newspaper Ashi Shinbun. "We are looking to commercialize the technique within five years."

As researchers revealed in their new paper on the glass-making process -- published in the journal Scientific Reports -- the new glass could be used for "windows in buildings and cars, cover glasses for smart-phones and substrates in Thin-Film Transistor (TFT) displays."

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