The ability to make super strong glass could lead to a whole new generation of windows in buildings and vehicles, but could also prove useful in screens for electronics, like tablets, computers, and smartphones. The team, from the University of Tokyo's Institute of Industrial Science, had their findings published earlier this month in Scientific Reports by Nature.
"We are looking to commercialize the technique within five years," University of Tokyo assistant professor Atsunobu Masuno told Asahi Shimbun.
Here's the secret ingredient in such tough glass: alumina. It's an oxide of aluminum, and mixing it with silicon dioxide makes glass way tougher. Problem is, when scientists have tried to use large amounts of alumina in the past, it caused the mixture to crystallize as soon as it touched any kind of container, preventing glass from being formed.
So the Tokyo team brewed up a method of making glass that required no container at all: they used gas to push the chemical components into the air, where they synthesized together. The result? A transparent ultra glass that's 50% alumina and rivals the Young's modulus of steel and iron, which measures rigidity and elasticity in solids. The practical uses are broad, since the study notes that alumina glass made via aerodynamic levitation can yield a product that's thin, light, and has excellent optical properties. We say, bring on commercialization.