Researchers at the University of Tokyo’s Institute of Industrial Science have developed a new type of glass almost as hard as steel.
“We will establish a way to mass-produce the new material shortly,” said Atsunobu Masuno, an assistant professor at the University of Tokyo’s Institute of Industrial Science. “We are looking to commercialize the technique within five years.”
Oxide glass mainly consists of silicon dioxide, with its strength boosted by mixing in alumina, an oxide of aluminum. But it had been difficult for scientists to form glass containing a large amount of alumina because the oxide causes crystallization when the glass comes into contact with its container.
The scientists bypassed this problem by using a containerless processing technique.
They used gas to push the chemical components into the air where they synthesized to form the glass. The resultant glass was colorless, transparent and very tough, 50 percent of it being composed of alumina.
The Young's modulus of the new glass, an indicator of rigidity, was twice as high than typical oxide glass and almost at the same level as steel and iron, according to the scientists.
Star Trek fans remember tough transparent material from the fourth Star Trek movie, which aired in 1986. Take a look at this brief scene, which featured the most advanced computer available in that year.
(Star Trek transparent aluminum)
SF fans may also know that the idea of a transparent metal is much older. Olaf Stapledon wrote about an artificial transparent element in his 1930 classic Last and First Men.
I'd be remiss if I didn't also mention glassite from Ray Cummings' 1930 novel Brigands of the Moon and the helio-beryllium alloy that also had a transparent variant, as found in Out Around Rigel, a 1931 story by Robert H. Wilson.