Question Corner | How can glass be made tougher for diverse applications?

Scientists created the new glass and acrylic composite material that mimics nacre or mother of pearl.   | Photo Credit: Getty Images

Inspired by the inner layer of mollusc shells, scientists at McGill University, Canada, have developed stronger and tougher glass (Science). The glass material does not shatter on impact and has the resiliency of plastic. Potential uses could be to improve cell phone screens in the future.

The researchers combined and centrifuged glass flakes with poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA) to make a transparent composite. A transparent composite was created by doping the glass flakes to alter the refractive index of PMMA to increase the optical clarity and make it at par with glass. The new material is not only three times stronger than the normal glass, but also more than five times more fracture-resistant, says the university press release. The fabrication method is robust and scalable, and the composite may prove to be a glass alternative in diverse applications, the release adds.

The scientists created the new glass and acrylic composite material that mimics nacre or mother of pearl. Nacre has the rigidity of a stiff material and durability of a soft material as it is made of stiff pieces of chalk-like matter that are layered with soft proteins that are highly elastic.

The researchers mimicked the architecture of nacre by using layers of glass flakes and acrylic. Initially, the material is opaque, but is made optically transparent like glass by tuning the refractive index of the acrylic seamlessly blended with the glass.

The researchers plan to improve the glass to change its properties, such as colour, mechanics and conductivity.

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2022 2:41:50 AM |

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