Sapphire is a transparent, crystalline form of aluminium oxide (alumina) that is extraordinarily hard, scratch-resistant, a melting point of 2,030C, and almost completely impermeable and impervious to caustic chemicals. In fact, it is the hardest natural substance after diamond. Keeping that in mind, right now some engineers at GT Advanced Technologies are trying to replace Gorilla Glass by making smartphone screens through Sapphire.
Sapphire is around three times the strength and scratch resistance of Corning’s Gorilla Glass. It is slightly weaker but far cheaper and more abundant version of diamond. In terms of real-world use, sapphire is about 10 times more scratch resistant than normal window glass, and much stronger than any other materials used in optics applications. It is this ruggedness that has led sapphire glass to be used in applications where normal glass just doesn’t cut it, such as bullet-proof glass, watches, and the front window on barcode scanners.
Keeping the characteristics of Sapphire, engineers at New Hampshire based GT Advanced Technologies think that Sapphire glass would be perfect for smartphone screen. So GT Advanced Technologies is developing a method for making sapphire sheets thinner than a human hair. To be more specific, they are trying to make much thinner glass than the nearly millimeter-thick glass used now on mobile phones.
Dan Squiller, President of PV and Worldwide Operations of GT Advanced Technologies said, “Gorilla Glass is still glass, so the way that you break glass is that you score it, and then it breaks. So when you scratch your mobile phone, that’s why when you drop your mobile phone it breaks – because there are scratches in it. So, with sapphire, because you cannot scratch it, it doesn’t break. So if you drop your phone, or abuse it, it won’t break. It’s very very rugged. It won’t scratch; it won’t break … You could throw this phone against a cement wall and it won’t break … well, the phone might break, but the screen will stay intact.”
The fact is the price of Sapphire smartphone screen will be very high. According to a market analyst, a sheet of Gorilla Glass costs around $3, while the same piece of sapphire glass costs $30. But GT will try to cut the cost of sapphire manufacturing by following the strategy that it used over the last several years to reduce the cost of making crystalline silicon for solar cells. For further details, visit Technology Review.
Source: Technology Review