Seashells inspire design for shatterproof glass

Researchers from Canada's McGill University develop a technique for increasing the toughness of glass so it doesn't break when dropped.

Kenzi Ong
2 min read

Soon, you might not have to worry about cleaning up shards of broken glass. All you'd have to do is pick the glass up -- in one complete piece.

Inspired by the natural stiffness and strength of seashells, a team of researchers at McGill University have found a way to toughen glass so it doesn't break. Instead, it simply becomes slightly deformed when dropped.

The scientists explain how they managed this in a paper titled "Overcoming the brittleness of glass through bio-inspiration and micro-architecture" and just published in Nature Communications.

Mollusk shells have a brittle outer layer but an extremely strong and tough inner layer coated with nacre, or mother-of-pearl. Engineering Professor François Barthelat and his team examined nacre's fragile internal boundaries, and then tried to replicate them by using lasers to engrave similar networks of wavy microcracks into the kind of glass slides that get put under microscopes.

This process absorbs the energy from impact made to the slides, and reportedly makes these glass slides 200 times stronger than untreated slides.

Barthelat believes it will be "very easy to scale up to any size of glass sheet" and has plans to work with other materials in the future.

Nacre has been the focus of scientific inquiry before. A few years back, scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory published findings on how nacre is formed. They discovered clues using the polarized X-ray beams and nanoscale imaging capabilities of Berkeley Lab's Advanced Light Source.

(Source: Crave Asia)