Glass is useful for many things, like windows, vision correction, and liquor bottles. But it's not exactly known for its durability. So a while ago, we made a article explaining how manufacturers use toughened glass for gadgets like phones, tablets, and smartwatches that need to be able to stand up to everyday drops and scratches. But for today's article, we're gonna look at the improvements that have been made to this technology in 2020.
To do so, we reached out to our friends at Corning who control a huge amount of the smartphone glass market, And we'd like to thank Dr. Jaymin Amin, their technology lead, for his time and insight. So obviously, although toughened glass is a lot stronger than what they use in soda bottles, it's still far from perfect, and a roaring trade exists in repairing cracked phone screens. So plenty of time and money are still being poured into developing ever tougher screen glass.
One of the fundamental concepts used in strengthening glass is ion exchange. Basically, what happens here is that the glass is dipped into a bath of potassium salts, heated to around 400 degrees Celsius. This causes potassium ions to take the place of smaller sodium ions that were already present in the glass. Because the potassium islands are larger, it causes compressive stress, which makes the microscopic structure of the glass stronger and less vulnerable to scratching or breaking. But despite this process having been around for some time, companies are still trying to find ways to improve it.
Corning, for example, has recently announced a new Gorilla Glass product called Victus, which is supposed to provide drop protection from up to two meters or a little over six feet. Scratch resistance of up to seven to 10 Newtons and withstanding force of over 100 kilograms in an area of less than two centimeters square before it'll break. That is a lot more than you'll probably ever put on your phone. Unless of course you step on it or give it the People's Elbow.
So how did they do it? Well, part of the process involved going deeper into the glass to increase compressive stress, like by giving the glass a second ion bath, which allows for ion displacement further down into the glass than a single treatment. Corning's also starting the process with a stronger glass in the first place before ion displacement even begins. Although unfortunately, many of the specifics as to exactly what chemicals and methods they're using are trade secrets they weren't exactly willing to share with us. What we can tell you though, is that it looks like Gorilla Glass won't be using Sapphire Glass, which Apple was once interested in, any time soon.
Unlike more conventional glasses, which are amorphous solids, Sapphire Glass is crystallin meaning that it has a regular structure at the molecular level. This makes Sapphire Glass very hard, but also quite brittle, which isn't exactly a quality that you want on phone glass for obvious reasons. But then if Victus Glass isn't completely reinventing the wheel, does that mean we can expect it on our devices very soon?
Well, Samsung has already introduced one phone with the new glass, so it shouldn't be long before it becomes more widespread. But before you rush out and buy something new, because you want a more durable phone, there is one piece of inside baseball, but you should know that phone manufacturer sometimes hide from the consumer. Toughened glasses are tested and rated at certain standard thicknesses. And sometimes this is what phone manufacturers do in fact end up using. But other times they might order a new generation of glass, but ask to have it cut down to be thinner, helping to meet consumer demand for light thin devices at the cost of taking away some of the glass's strength. So if you see a phone that uses a new generation of toughened glass, but lots of reviews that indicate that it might be fragile, that could be the culprit. Or of course, people might just be treating their phones like their Koosh balls.