Innovation has bestowed the power of desktops on our palms in the form of smartphones. But unlike these small devices, desktops are not prone to easily slipping from the table and shattering into pieces. Smartphones on the other hand, have a habit of slipping through our fingers and cracking where they are not supposed to.
Unfortunately, phone repairs are costly, which is why smartphone companies are looking for new ideas that can strengthen their products. A technology that may come in handy to these companies in the future has been developed by the students of McGill University in Quebec, Canada. Z Yin et al have created a Nacre-inspired glass that is bendable like normal plastic and extremely sturdy.
Nacre, also known as the Mother of Pearl, is a strong and iridescent organic material that coats the inside of seashells. It is tough due to the calcium carbonate, which is structured in tiny hexagonal platelets that are coupled with each other using flexible biopolymers. Z Yin and team fashioned the hexagonal structure using pulsed laser beams for micro-cuts on a glass.
In the case of trauma, the platelets slide over each other as the polymers stretch. The elasticity dispels the energy of the impact and the opposite reaction. But if the force is too high, the platelets may be ripped apart. However, the crack will not spread across the material.
High-end smartphones, especially Apple iPhones, are infamous for their crack-spreading glass built. In fact, GoEasyRepair gets such shattered iPhone cases almost every week. By using the Nacre-inspired glass, the extensive damage due to a small point of impact can be avoided. Moreover, this inventive glass can be manufactured cheaply.
The only downside here is the elasticity of the material, which will cause the phone to droop. It can be reinforced by using normal glass, making the phone slightly more fragile. It will still be stronger than tempered glass. The phone’s display will have extra protection from scratches as well.
Samsung will be able to use this technology for its foldable phones, especially the future iterations of Samsung Galaxy Fold. The model showed serious flaws during beta testing as the display would break during folding. With the Nacres glass, the screen can be folded a number of times without incurring fold-line damages or similar markings.
Nature is often hailed as the best engineer. With inspirations like these, technology can be taken several notches up if we just look around the ecosystem.