Monday, February 17, 2014

Achy-breaky glass no more

Glass is such a wuss. One trip to the floor--and bam! Broken into pieces. Without glass, we might not have the word "smithereens."

Now researchers at McGill's Department of Mechanical Engineering has made tougher glass. If you drop it, it sort of deforms, but does not shatter.

The scientists were taken with mollusks (this is called biomimicry--patterning after natural items). The shells of these sea creatures are 95% chalk, which is brittle as we know. But nature added nacre--mother-of-pearl--which is tiny tablets sort of like Legos.

The team studies the internal "weak" boundaries of the chalk and nacre and then used lasers to engrave networks of microcracks in glass slides to create similar weak boundaries.

Somehow--I was losing it here--this stopped the cracks from continuing to spread and become larger. The glass sort of bent rather than breaking.

This process, they say, absorbs the energy from an impact. They also say it could be scaled up--they were using the glass slides lying around the lab, but bigger sheets would work, too.

Where does bulletproof glass fit in? Tempered windshield glass? Would it ever just sproing inward, stop, and remain whole? Like in a ... cartoon?