This post is sponsored by Corning® Gorilla® Glass
If I were to ask you to name the first product made by Corning Incorporated that pops into your head, chances are you might say PYREX® or CorningWare. Fair enough. While these are products the company is well known for thanks to their presence in kitchens throughout America, the 160+ year old company has a long history of making glass.
Over the past six months I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Corning beyond PYREX and CorningWare and what I’ve realized while hiking the Betatakin, photographing the Vermillion Cliffs, bumping along dirt roads near Saguaro National Park, and touring their Sullivan Park research and development facility at the company’s world headquarters in Corning, New York, is that they are deeply rooted in the science of glass and are a technology company.
Corning and Technology
Did you know that Corning is the leading maker of optical fiber of telecommunications use? Made of thin strands of glass, fiber optic cables are designed to carry information over long distances using light technology. Corning’s invention of the first low-loss optical fiber 45 years ago changed the way we communicate forever. Their creation of the very tool that allowed the information superhighway to exist was life changing. These days we rely on fiber optics to network our computers and as the Internet of Things grows, allowing us to connect a growing number of smart home products for us to monitor and control our lives.
At its core, Corning is a science company that is deeply rooted in innovation. Each and every day scientists who have backgrounds in materials science, optical physics, engineering, and process innovations work to solve problems that will lead to the development of the next generation of technology. Work by Corning’s scientists are changing the face of consumer electronics through the invention of products like Corning® Gorilla® Glass, damage resistant cover glass for smartphones and tablets.
How Corning Developed a New Generation of Glass for a New Generation of Products
These days our digital devices are never far from reach. We spend hundreds of minutes each and every day interacting with the glass as we tap, swipe, and type to access and send information on smartphones, tablets, and laptops with touch screens. We require them to be thin, light, and aesthetically pleasing but at the same time, we need them to be durable enough to resist the abuse that comes with mobility.
With devices in-hand for so much time throughout the day, it’s not surprising that they sometimes slip from our fingers and drop. Knowing that screen breakage from everyday drops is the #1 consumer complaint, Corning scientists at the Sullivan Park Research and Development campus worked to figure out how and why breaks happen to create a glass that would improve damage resistance.
Understanding How Glass Breaks to Create Better Glass
Fractographers are highly-trained scientists who specializing in determining why and how glass breaks. Corning fractographers have experience in material science, physics, or glass science and liken their field of science to CSI. Lisa Noni is a fractographer who has worked at Corning for the past three years. She holds a degree in material science and engineering and was drawn to the field because of the abundance of puzzles to solve.
“It’s kind of like CSI,” Noni described. “You’re presented with a broken device, and you have to figure out how and why it broke. I find that very interesting.”
Corning scientists spend thousands of hours dropping devices on many different surfaces to collect samples that can be analyzed by fractographers back in the lab. They discovered that rough surfaces contribute to the demise of the glass on our devices and used their findings to develop a better glass.
Creating Tests that Replicate Real World Drops
At Corning’s lab in Corning, N.Y., researchers perform testing to simulate the kinds of stresses that the cover glass will endure in the field by creating tests in their reliability lab. Corning fractographers designed tougher tests to replicate the real-world drops responsible for more than 70 percent of cover glass breakage. Their gold-standard of drop tests aims to replicate real-world drops on rough surfaces that commonly cause smartphone cover glass to break. They created a drop machine that allows devices to fall on a specific grit of sandpaper to simulate the rough surfaces that provide sharp contact that happens in real world drops.
How the Glass Fusion Process Creates Tough Glass
After replicating and studying the problem of drops and tweaking the chemical composition, Corning® Gorilla® Glass 4 was developed using Corning’s proprietary fusion manufacturing process.
This extraordinarily precise, highly automated draw process produces a thin sheet of cover glass. The manufacturing process of Gorilla Glass allows it to have pristine surface quality, outstanding optical clarity, and inherent dimensional stability – essential features for the cover glass we use on our digital devices throughout the day.
The process begins when raw materials are blended into a glass composition, which is melted and conditioned. The molten glass is fed into a trough called an isopipe that is overfilled until the glass flows evenly over both sides. It then rejoins, or fuses, at the bottom, where it is drawn down to form a continuous sheet of flat glass that is so thin it is measured in microns. The touch screen of Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4 is only 400 microns thick which is equivalent to 0.01 inches.
The glass is untouched by human hands or anything else that will introduce flaws into the surface. The composition of Gorilla Glass enables a deep layer of chemical strengthening through an ion-exchange process where individual glass parts are cut from the “mother sheet” and undergo an ion-exchange process.
How the Ion Exchange Process Helps Gorilla Glass 4 Resist Damage
Ion exchange is a chemical strengthening process where large ions are “stuffed” into the glass surface, creating a state of compression. Gorilla Glass is specially designed to maximize this behavior.
The glass is placed in a hot bath of molten salt at a temperature of approximately 400 degrees Celsius. Smaller sodium ions leave the glass, and larger potassium ions from the salt bath replace them. These large ions take up more room and are pressed together when the glass cools, producing a layer of compressive stress on the surface of the glass.
Gorilla Glass’ composition enables the potassium ions to diffuse far into the surface, creating high compressive stress deep into the glass. This layer of compression creates the surface that is more resistant to damage.
Research Leads to Results
Gorilla Glass 4 has been formulated tough in order to deliver dramatically improved drop performance, but maintains the thinness and lightness of previous versions. The drop test machine uniformly tested and compared enhancements made to the glass composition during the glass fusion and ion exchange processes to create Gorilla Glass 4, the toughest cover glass yet from Corning.
Repeated testing demonstrates Gorilla Glass 4 is formulated to improve protections against drops and is better able to withstand damage from drops. In laboratory tests, Gorilla Glass 4 survives up to 80% of the time when dropped from approximately 3 feet high and was up to 2x tougher than competitive glass designs.
Win a Mother Daughter Field Trip to Meet Corning’s Scientists
Reading about scientific processes, research, lab tests and how they’ve researchers have used data from their findings to create the toughest cover glass yet is one way to learn but seeing is believing! Since I’m a big fan of hands-on learning through experiences, one mother-daughter pair will get the rare opportunity to accompany me on an exclusive visit to Corning’s facilities and to meet some of the female scientists innovating there today.
This summer we’ll go behind the scenes to talk with scientists whose research has contributed to innovations in cover glass that we use on our devices today and spend time at Corning Museum of Glass learning about the history of glass, watching glass being blown, and maybe even make some glass products of our own for an unforgettable learning opportunity!
How to Enter Women Who Innovate Tough
Technology allows our girls to learn in ways that were never possible when I was a child. Mobile devices have changed the way today’s generation learns because they help our kids learn how and where they want. In order to celebrate the tough challenges that girls are able to face thanks to technology, one very lucky mother-daughter pair will have the opportunity to visit Corning with me and Emily this summer and will receive a Surface Pro 4 to continue learning through Gorilla Glass.
In order to enter, tweet your answer to this question, tagging @CorningGorilla, and using the hashtag #LearningThroughGorillaGlass:
Although this post is sponsored as part of my work with Corning, all opinions are my own and based on personal experience. For official contest rules, visit: