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La nascita e il successo del Gorilla glass [EN]

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Bryan Gardiner su Wired racconta la storia del Gorilla glass, il vetro ultrasottile e ultraresistente che si trova negli schermi di quasi tutti gli smartphones in commercio.

Come spesso accade, la storia di questo vetro inizia con una serie di errori di un dipendente della Corning, il chimico Don Stookey:

Don Stookey knew he had botched the experiment. One day in 1952, the Corning Glass Works chemist placed a sample of photosensitive glass inside a furnace and set the temperature to 600 degrees Celsius. At some point during the run, a faulty controller let the temperature climb to 900 degrees C. Expecting a melted blob of glass and a ruined furnace, Stookey opened the door to discover that, weirdly, his lithium silicate had transformed into a milky white plate. When he tried to remove it, the sample slipped from the tongs and crashed to the floor. Instead of shattering, it bounced.

Il vetro ceramico scoperto da Stookey, solo un antenato del Gorilla glass, fu battezzato Pyroceram e trovò un suo spazio nelle case di molte persone come materiale per piatti e pirofile che Corning commercializzò con il nome Corningware. Questa scoperta diede l’inizio ad un enorme sforzo della Corning per sviluppare vetri più resistenti chiamato “Project Muscle”:

A breakthrough came when company scientists tweaked a recently developed method of reinforcing glass that involved dousing it in a bath of hot potassium salt. They discovered that adding aluminum oxide to a given glass composition before the dip would result in remarkable strength and durability. Scientists were soon hurling fortified tumblers off their nine-story facility and bombarding the glass, known internally as 0317, with frozen chickens. It could be bent and twisted to an extraordinary degree before fracturing, and it could withstand 100,000 pounds of pressure per square inch. (Normal glass can weather about 7,000.) In 1962 Corning began marketing the glass as Chemcor and thought it could work for products like phone booths, prison windows, and eyeglasses.

L’entusiasmo per questo materiale però non fu seguito da successo commerciale e questo materiale fu messo da parte in attesa di trovare un uso. Questo momento arrivò nel 2007 quando Steve Jobs bussò alle porte di Wendell Weeks, CEO della Corning:

It was here that Steve Jobs gave the 53-year-old Weeks a seemingly impossible task: Make millions of square feet of ultrathin, ultrastrong glass that didn’t yet exist. Oh, and do it in six months. The story of their collaboration—including Jobs’ attempt to lecture Weeks on the principles of glass and his insistence that such a feat could be accomplished—is well known. How Corning actually pulled it off is not.

Dello stesso argomento parla anche James McKenzie su PhysicsWorld

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