Scientists have found a novel way to alter the structure of glass to improve its resistance to fractures, an advance that may lead to the development of shatter-proof smartphone screens.
“Everyone knows how frustrating it is when you drop your mobile device and get a large crack in the screen,” said Charles Le Losq from Australian National University (ANU).
He said that glass appeared to be structured randomly, but it was actually quite ordered at the microscopic level of a few atoms. The researchers worked on a type of glass called alumino-silicate, which is used in the screens of mobile devices.
“The glasses we analysed are mostly composed of aluminium and silicon oxides, and can also contain various elements such as sodium, potassium, calcium or magnesium – each element influences the flexibility and resistance of the glass,” said Le Losq, who led the study published in the journal Scientific Reports.
Le Losq said the findings also shed light on the crucial role that lava oceans and volcanoes played in the geological evolution of Earth.
The researchers measured the viscosity of molten glass at more than 1,000 degrees Celsius and the density of the glass when cooled and formed.
“Our research findings allow better modelling of present volcanic activity, as well as of the lavas involved in the original formation of Earth and its surface,” Le Losq said.
He said the research could also inform ways to produce glass suitable for storing nuclear waste more effectively than current practices.