Science Creates Glass That's Stronger Than Steel

| 18 Jan 2011 05:07

Another piece of Star Trek technology has become reality thanks to researchers who have developed a new kind of malleable, non-shattering glass that's stronger than steel.

Any nerd worth his (or her) salt will recall the moment at which U.S.S. Enterprise Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott met his very first Apple Macintosh computer, a bumpy interaction that nonetheless ultimately led to the invention of transparent aluminum, a vital component in starship construction. But what was a convenient plot mechanism 25 years ago is non-fiction today thanks to a collaboration between the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the California Institute of Technology.

Researchers have come up with a new type of glass that's "resilient yet malleable," bends instead of breaking when it's subjected to stress and, most important of all, is stronger than steel. It's actually a microalloy with metallic elements like palladium that results in a very high "'bulk-to-shear' stiffness ratio that counteracts the intrinsic brittleness of glassy materials." Furthermore, by tweaking the formula used in the construction of the material, the team believes it could make the glass even stronger.

"Because of the high bulk-to-shear modulus ratio of palladium-containing material, the energy needed to form shear bands is much lower than the energy required to turn these shear bands into cracks," said materials scientist Robert Ritchie, who headed the Berkeley team. "The result is that glass undergoes extensive plasticity in response to stress, allowing it to bend rather than crack."

I have no idea what that means and neither do you but his point, I think, is that time travel is just around the corner. Or something like that. I suppose it's possible that it could just lead to huge advancements in architecture, construction, automotive safety and so forth, which is pretty cool too.

On the downside, we still can't have a conversation with our computers. One step at a time, I suppose.

Source: Berkeley Lab News Center

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