Toronto: Scientists are developing a new gen-next glass that bends but does not shatter when dropped. Engineers at McGill University in Canada have developed a technique that makes the glass simply bend and become slightly deformed when dropped.
That’s because Prof. François Barthelat and his team have successfully taken inspiration from the mechanics of natural structures like seashells in order to significantly increase the toughness of glass.
“Mollusk shells are made up of about 95 per cent chalk, which is very brittle in its pure form,” says Barthelat. “But nacre, or mother-of-pearl, which coats the inner shells, is made up of microscopic tablets that are a bit like miniature Lego building blocks, is known to be extremely strong and tough, which is why people have been studying its structure for the past twenty years.”
Researchers have tried to recreate nacre in the past, but it has been quite a challenge.
“Imagine trying to build a Lego wall with microscopic building blocks. It’s not the easiest thing in the world.” Instead, what he and his team chose to do was to study the internal ‘weak’ boundaries or edges to be found in natural materials like nacre and then use lasers to engrave networks of 3D micro-cracks in glass slides in order to create similar weak boundaries. The results were dramatic,” Barthelat said.
The research team successfully increased the toughness of glass microscope slides by 200 times by configuring wavy “micro cracks” similar to a jigsaw puzzle into its surface; the team was able to keep the cracks from “propagating and becoming larger.” They filled the tiny cracks with polyurethane, although this was only a precaution and not a necessity, the researchers said, the news release reported.
The reseachers now plan to go on to work with ceramics and polymers in future, said the study published in Nature Communications.
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