Thinner than a human hair and as flexible as plastic ultra-thin glass is already used in many products from fingerprint scanning on smartphones to wraparound screens but manufacturers have only just begun to explore the potential of this new class of glass you could say its future is bright when it comes to sheer flexibility thin is in ultra-thin glass bends like a sheet of paper and a chemical process ensures that it’s extremely robust to make ultra-thin glass scientists use standard materials such as lime sand soda and potash the ingredients are stored in separate silos until it’s time for production inside a retractable cable powers an automated cart the dry ingredients lime wait for the chutes to open as the cart moves forward ready to collect them it weighs the ingredients until it has the correct amounts for the glass recipe and then closes the lid automatically smaller secret ingredients are added.
Manually to the batch these enhance qualities like optical clarity and electrical sensitivity the cart then transfers the batch to a mixer as it blends everything together pieces of broken or waste glass are added for recycling once it’s been thoroughly mixed a lift raises a funnel-shaped container up to the base of the mixer and the mixer releases the batch into it the team holds the batch Laden funnel tank to the next station there a crane takes over and lowers the tank onto a feeder system just above a gas and electric furnace a trapdoor opens at the funnels base and the mixture flows into the feeder mechanism a shovel like object slowly pushes the mixture into the furnace which has been fired to 1,500 degrees Celsius the shovel continuously.
Adds more ingredients to keep production flowing glass production here runs all day and night the melting glass reaches the consistency of honey when ready it flows out through a narrow sled and it’s this slit that establishes the ultra-thin dimensions of the glass cooling the glass slowly relieves internal stresses as the glass solidifies ultra-thin glass can be just 25 microns thick that’s finer than a hair and it’s this thinness that makes it so flexible the glass bends teluk down and up across rollers as it journeys forward in a continuous 60 centimeter white sheet and unlike ordinary glass it doesn’t crack it then travels past tiny cameras and laser senses that look for defects like bubbles a computer maps any flaws so that can be avoided when the glass is cut into smaller pieces a revolving spool rolls up the glass along with a plastic liner which prevents the glass layers from sticking together once 500 meters of thin glass has been.
Wound onto the spool an automated system cuts it and slides the spool off the core and onto a rack the operator gives it a push to complete the transfer and then rolls the rack to the next station a lab technician slices off a fragment of the glass and inserts it into a micrometer it gauges the thickness of the specimen and confirms that it’s super thin another technician places a bigger segment of glass under a cutter he aligns it correctly then activates the machine it scribes the glass so it can be broken on this line creating small screens for smartphones and smart watches the last technician examines the glass for scratches under a bright light and confirms that it’s undamaged to demonstrate just how flexible it is a member of the team twists our strip into a circle and ties it remember this is glass.
Later a chemical treatment will further strengthen the ultra-thin glass so the chance of it cracking or breaking will be extremely well slim which is good news for all you butterfingers out there maybe cracked phone or tablet screens will become a thing of the past.