The evolution of Corning’s Gorilla Glass
In 1952 a scientist at Corning placed a piece of photosensitive glass in a furnace for testing. The furnace was set to 900 degrees Celsius; expecting a melted mess the scientist found what appeared to be an opaque sheet of material rather than that of a melted blob of nothingness. naturally intrigued the scientist then proceeded to take the sample out of the furnace, he struggled and actually dropped the sample onto the floor. What he found was rather extraordinary, instead of shattering into smithereens – the glass actually bounced.
The scientist had actually created a glass-ceramic hybrid. He later found out that this glass was a lot stronger than the glass of his era, it was also lighter than aluminium and as hard as steel. this new discovery found its way into various products; from missiles to microwaves and would later be developed in to the household staple name Corningware.
Corning worked on trying to strengthen the glass through the 60’s, through that study they discovered that if they placed the new glass in a potassium bath it would strengthen the glass quite significantly through an ion exchange.
What is an ion exchange I hear you say:
Ion exchange is a chemical strengthening process where large ions are “stuffed” into the glass surface, creating a state of compression. Gorilla Glass is specially designed to maximize this behaviour. The glass is placed in a hot bath of molten salt at a temperature of approximately 400°C. Smaller sodium ions leave the glass, and larger potassium ions from the salt bath replace them. These larger ions take up more room and are pressed together when the glass cools, producing a layer of compressive stress on the surface of the glass. Gorilla Glass’s special composition enables the potassium ions to diffuse far into the surface, creating high compressive stress deep into the glass. This layer of compression creates a surface that is more resistant to damage from everyday use.
So they basically forced out all of the smaller ions and replaced them with larger ions, these compressed when cooled to create a much tougher glass. This project was originally named “Chemcor” and the intent was for the product to be used universally. However it never took off commercially, companies just didn’t want to pay for something that they didn’t really need. The laminate glass that was designed in the 30’s was still doing the job, so why change. Corning got their new compound out to very few manufacturers/companies and were simply not making enough money; so the idea was scrapped.
In 2006 a man named Steve Jobs was testing a new prototype called the iPhone. Steve and his crew wanted to create a Smartphone that defied all odds. Jobs realised that the plastic screens used in 2006 were simply not strong enough to withstand the daily challenges that they were coming up against, keys and coins being the biggest culprits for example. Timing played a huge factor in the process of Apple obtaining Gorilla Glass for their Smartphones. Jobs contacted Corning and set them the task of finding a suitable glass module that would work with his new concept, what Jobs didn’t know that a full year prior to his request Corning had already began exploring that concept.
Apple became enchanted with the idea of using this type of glass. They gave Corning their desired specifications. Apple required a glass just 1.3mm thick, this was well below half of what Corning had ever produced with Chemcor. Corning naturally began to feel pressurized as they failed to tell Apple that they had never mass produced products like this before. Corning took the risk and agreed to Jobs’ request, they then set their scientists the task of producing a new glass for Apple. They named it Project Gorilla Glass.
Now the world’s leading tech manufacturers are using Corning’s Gorilla Glass: Apple, Samsung, Sony, HTC, Nokia, Motorola, Acer & Dell just to name a few. This really does paint a picture as to how quickly they have evolved in such a short amount of time.
Corning are always seeking to improve their designs when possible. Many of you will already know that a lot of todays Smartphones/Tablets do in fact feature Gorilla Glass 2 technology on their displays. Gorilla 2 was described as being “up to 20% thinner” than the original Gorilla Glass whilst also allowing for better haptic feedback and all round responsiveness.
Corning have just recently announced Gorilla Glass 3 at CES 2013. Naturally Gorilla 3 is significantly tougher than previous designs of the product. Gorilla 3 is said to be three times more scratch resistant than Gorilla 2, will show up to 40% fewer scratches after use and maintain 50% more strength after the sheet of glass comes into heavy contact.
The guys over at engadget did manage to get their hands on some Gorilla 3 testing equipment at CES 2013, the video below shows us just how tough the new Gorilla Glass 3 actually is. Check it out for yourself!
Look for new Gorilla Glass 3 coming soon on the world’s coolest smartphones, tablets and laptops.