Prized for all of its amazing properties, glass has numerous practical, technological, and decorative uses. However, for all its strengths, glass is an inherently brittle material. That’s why scientists have continuously been looking for ways to improve the material by making it more shatter-proof.
Recently, researchers from McGill University figured out how to do just that by getting inspiration from the layered structure of mother-of-pearl – the iridescent material that lines the inside of many seashells. On the microscopic level, mother-of-pearl looks like it’s made out of tiny building blocks. Under force, the mineral blocks can slide apart from each other. The sliding allows the material to take on substantial blows without breaking. Inspired by this structure, the scientists have managed to make a synthetic glass that duplicates mother-of-pearl’s sliding property, overcoming glass’s inherent brittleness.
The new glass performs seemingly flawlessly. It’s transparent, does not produce any image distortions and instead of breaking under high stress, it bends. That means the material could be used to make safer windows, more shatterproof phone screens, and windshields.