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Through the Gorilla Glass: Inside Corning's research facility (pictures)

Nowadays, it seems like every new phone is sporting a Corning Gorilla Glass screen. Take a peek at where these screens come from and what makes them so special.

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Lynn La
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From the outside, looking in


The Samsung Galaxy Note has it, the Motorola Droid Razr has it, and the Nokia Lumia 900 has it, too. But what does it mean exactly when a phone comes with a Corning Gorilla Glass screen? And, more importantly, what makes it so special? Join us as we go behind the screen, literally, and tour a Corning research facility.

Although Corning was established in 1851, its Palo Alto research facility has been around for only three years. Here, research and development is conducted for the company's five divisions: telecommunications, life science, environmental technologies, display technologies, and specialty materials.
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Looking a little thin

Gorilla Glass achieves its legendary strength on a chemical level. Through an ion-exchange process, a deep compression layer is created on the glass that acts like armor. The piece of Gorilla Glass seen here is only 1.1mm thick, but its retained strength (a measure of how much it can endure damage like dings and scratches) enables it to be a suitable replacement for the 3.8mm piece of soda lime glass behind it. Soda lime glass is a common type of glass used for window panes, soda bottles, and food jars.
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Suck it in, soda lime

Seen from the side, the thinness of this piece of Gorilla Glass (right) is stark when compared with its soda lime glass counterpart (left). Early this year, Corning announced Gorilla Glass 2.0. Although it is 20 percent thinner and allows for greater touch sensitivity, it will retain the same scratch resistance and strength we've come to expect from the original product.
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Flexing that glass

Here our own Jessica Dolcourt holds a piece of Corning's flexible glass, which measures 100um, or micrometers, thick. Although there are no current applications for this type of glass, Corning hopes to use it for flexible displays--for example, an interactive touch screen that could wrap around a pillar and be used for adspace.
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Catching the light

Senior Project Manager Zachi Baharav holds up a typical piece of Gorilla Glass used for smartphones. The alkali-aluminosilicate glass was created specifically to be lightweight, thin, and highly resistant to damage.
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A glass menagerie

Gorilla Glass made its debut in handheld touch-screen devices in 2008. Since then, it has been used in portable media players, laptops, tablets, and televisions. Here, an array of Gorilla Glass phone screens is displayed.
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Splendor in the glass

To begin our informal and unscientific strength test, Jessica holds up 1.1mm pieces of non-strengthened soda lime glass, strengthened soda lime glass (which has been dipped in a hot sodium bath to give it its extra toughness), and Gorilla Glass.
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Tapping that glass

Jessica was then instructed to push against the center of each piece of glass with a metal prod and take note of how much strength it took to break each piece.
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But will it blend?

The non-strengthened piece of soda lime glass took the least amount of effort to break, and was easily compromised.
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Keep off the glass, please

Although strengthened soda lime glass took a bit more effort than the non-strengthened piece, Jessica was able to break through it easily nonetheless.
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Putting a little muscle into it

We know that Gorilla Glass is not impossible to break (for proof, check out our successful attempt at destroying the Sonim XP3300 Force), but compared with the previous two pieces of soda lime glass, along with a torqueless prod, breaking through this piece of Gorilla Glass proved difficult.
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The damage is done

The Gorilla Glass escaped Jessica unscathed despite her feats of strength. The broken pieces of non-strengthened and strengthened soda lime glass weren't so lucky.
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Well, that's a neat trick

Demonstrating what can be done with just glass, Corning shows us how a window pane doubles as a speaker using only an iPod, an amplifier (bottom-right black unit), and a transducer attached to the glass. The sound vibrations traveling through the glass can be felt by hand.
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The glass castle

Corning has come a long way since its days of providing Thomas Edison with the glass to make his bulbs. Now that consumers expect the thinnest, toughest, and clearest glass on their mobile phones, we'll be anticipating what Corning has to offer with Gorilla Glass 2.0 and beyond.

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