Despite the many recent innovations in smart phones (wireless buds, foldable handsets, ridiculously good cameras) we’re still lagging behind on the thing that most of us actually need: a screen that can withstand being dropped multiple times a day. Now a new type of glass might be able to fix our screens for good.
The new glass-type can bend and stretch at room temperature without cracking, so presumably it also wouldn’t break if you had too many cold ones and accidentally dropped it on the pavement. There are no immediate plans to use the material on any commercial projects, but it could one day be used to create ultra-durable devices.
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Erkka Frankberg of Tampere University and Lucile Joly-Pottuz from Lyon led the team of researchers who created the glass. Their new material uses aluminium as its base instead of silicon.
Silica glass is very common and it’s also fairly brittle because of its atomic structure. It tends to have a lot of empty space in its structure which makes it harder for the atoms to move around. By creating a type of glass that has a denser structure, aka this fancy new aluminium version, the atoms can fluidly switch places with each other. This it what makes the new glass all bendy.
There is, however, a catch, which means that it’s unlikely we’ll see the new glass implemented in any smartphones soon: It’s incredibly expensive to make.
Creating the glass samples involved a lot of complex work with laser beams, and it’s hard to see manufacturers picking up the cost for this when most people can manage with a standard screen and a fairly robust case to prevent any cracking.
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Speaking recently with Chemistry World, team leader Erkka Frankberg said: “The work continues. This is the first discovery – the revelation that this is actually possible. But we still need to understand better the mechanism behind it.”
So until then, you’ll just have to find other ways to keep your phone protected.