November 4, 2013
Since I am an eyeglasses purveyor I thought I should write something about which I know a little. Mainly I’m aware of the optical properties of lenses in glasses but not so much the manufacturing of them. Interestingly, some lenses we call high index and recommend them for patients that have a high prescription. Using high index materials will make the lenses thinner but can slightly degrade the optical quality called Abbe value.
I need to get something out of the way first. Google Glass is not made of glass. Not even the little optical part that is the display. It’s all plastic with some titanium. But it’s a cool name. Eyeglasses aren’t really made of glass either these days (with some exceptions). But there still is a lot of glass around in our world. Some of it is made to be stronger and thinner which is why there is Gorilla Glass (for our smartphones and other electronic devices).
Gorilla Glass is made by Corning. They invented it over 50 years ago but called it Chemcor back then. Not a very catchy name for advertising which goes to show you how important a name is. Before explaining the gorilla part of glass, I should start off by saying that basic glass is made of heated sand (mainly). Additives like soda ash (sodium carbonate) make the process easier (lower heat required) and other additives like lanthanum oxide are used for eyeglasses lenses (glass lenses). Most glass like window glass can be classified as soda-lime glass.
Back to Gorilla Glass which your smartphone might have as the top layer that is touched (I’ll mention a few of the other brands later). It is chemically treated which means the glass is made and then put in a hot solution of potassium which allows the larger potassium molecules to seep into the glass. That packs the molecules closer together and makes the glass stronger and more scratch resistant. It protects the layers underneath and actually can be part (or most) of the devices structural support.
But just because our smartphone touch screens have this strengthened glass, they are still susceptible to cracking. Small scratches or even invisible cracking reduces the strength and makes each additional drop or scratch that much more likely to lead to a visible crack(s). When the force of impact overcomes the surface compression of the molecules that make up the glass, you’ve got yourself a visible crack. Dropping your phone or device on it’s corner focuses that impact in one place whereas dropping it flat might spread the force over a larger area and not cause a crack.
Now on to a few of the other glass materials that might be in your phone, or your next one:
Willow Glass – one of Corning’s newest materials that is very flexible and could wrap around your wrist
Gorilla Glass 2 and 3 – stronger and more scratch resistant, probably in the newest iphones.
Nippon Electric Glass – one of their products only reflects 0.08% of the light which they say is practically invisible (usually plastic and glass reflect between 8% to almost 15% of light)
Samsung – Youm is a new flexible display that can wrap around like Willow Glass
Dragontrail – yes, there’s a marketing name
This glass stuff is a multibillion dollar industry and you know who’s helping all this innovation? You and I are by buying these electronic gadgets. I am up for a new iPad Air. I don’t know who manufactured the glass in those since Apple tries to keep secrets but I bet it’s Gorilla Glass. If you do break your screen there are DYI videos on how to replace them which might be much cheaper than paying someone else to fix it…that is, if you dare try yourself (it’s really not that difficult).
Here’s a youtube video about the very flexible Willow Glass….