Let's play a quick game of word association. If we say the word glass, what's the first word that comes to mind? We'd wager that things like “broken”, “smashed”, “shattered”, and “cracked” are all near the top of the list of words associated with glass. That's understandable, as glass is one of the more brittle substances we handle on a daily basis. Drop a cup on the kitchen floor, and you'll see what we mean.
However, glass doesn't have to be fragile, and innovators in material science have developed new forms of glass that are far more resilient against scratches, cracks, and breakage. Gorilla Glass, developed by Corning, has been used to great effect on smartphone screens for many years. The latest fifth-generation Corning Gorilla Glass is incredibly strong, and works well to protect smartphones and other electronics. Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, former hosts of Mythbusters, explain how Gorilla Glass works in this video:
Recently, one of the experimental applications in the video above has become a reality: automotive Gorilla Glass. This high-tech laminated material was introduced officially at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) last week.
Corning displayed a vehicle they call the Connected Car Prototype, with automotive Gorilla Glass built into the windshield, sun roof, rear window, and side windows. The glass on this prototype is also embedded with an Active Tint layer, which can be changed from crystal clear to almost opaque at the touch of a button. This allows the occupants to instantly tint the windows for improved privacy, and then clear them up for low-light visibility — the best of both worlds.
Aside from the very cool Active Tint feature, the big advantage of automotive Gorilla Glass is its strength. The company states that pound-for-pound, automotive Gorilla Glass is five times tougher than the standard soda lime glass found in car windows today. This has already seen a retail application in the new Ford GT supercar, and is being used in a thinner and lighter form, while still providing more impact-protection and clarity than standard glass.
While it seems that automakers will be using Gorilla Glass primarily as a weight-saving measure for added fuel efficiency, it's conceivable that extra-thick Gorilla Glass could be installed to provide near-bulletproof levels of chip and crack protection.We're excited to see how this new glass tech evolves as it makes its way into more production vehicles.