Scientists develop 'unbreakable' glass almost as tough as steel

4 Nov 2015

Japanese researchers have developed a new type of glass almost as hard as steel, a breakthrough that could lead to the development of substantially tougher windows and tableware.

“We will establish a way to mass-produce the new material shortly,” said Atsunobu Masuno, an assistant professor at the University of Tokyo’s Institute of Industrial Science.

“We are looking to commercialise the technique within five years.”

Oxide glass mainly consists of silicon dioxide, with its strength boosted by mixing in alumina, an oxide of aluminium.

But it had been difficult for scientists to form glass containing a large amount of alumina because the oxide causes crystallisation when the glass comes into contact with its container.

The scientists bypassed this problem by using a containerless processing technique.

They used gas to push the chemical components into the air where they synthesised to form the glass. The resultant glass was colourless, transparent and very tough, 50 percent of it being composed of alumina.

The Young's modulus of the new glass, an indicator of rigidity, was twice as high as typical oxide glass and almost at the same level as steel and iron, according to the scientists.

By Keisuke Yamazaki

First published by Asahi Shimbun on 29 October 2015