Glass Model Bends but does not Break

First Posted: Jan 31, 2014 12:18 AM EST

Engineers at MacGill University in Canada have recently devised a technique that actually enables glasses to carry more bend without the possibility of breaking.

"Mollusk shells are made up of about 95 percent chalk which is very brittle in its pure form," said professor François Barthelat from McGill's department of mechanical engineering in the press release"Imagine trying to build a Lego wall with microscopic building blocks. It's not the easiest thing in the world." Researchers studied the internal 'weak' boundaries and edges that are found in natural materials like nacre. 

To achieve this durability, they used lasers that engraved networks of 3D micro-cracks in glass slides and resulted in similar weak boundaries. They then observed these dramatic results via the strength of the glass slides that had increased 200 times compared to the non-engraved slides.

In order to prevent the possibility of cracks from forming or becoming larger, they also worked to engrave networks of micro-cracks.

"What we know now is that we can toughen glass, or other materials, by using patterns of micro-cracks to guide larger cracks, and in the process absorb the energy from an impact," Barthelat added, via the release.

In the future, researchers note that they hope to use this technique to increase the durability of ceramics and polymers.

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More information regarding the study can be found via the  journal Nature Communications.

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