Oxide glass mainly consists of silicon dioxide, with its strength boosted by mixing in alumina, an oxide of aluminum. But it had been difficult for scientists to form glass containing a large amount of alumina because the oxide causes crystallisation when the glass comes into contact with its container.
The scientists bypassed this problem by using a containerless processing technique. They used gas to push the chemical components into the air where they synthesised to form the glass. The resultant glass was colourless, transparent and very tough, 50 per cent of it being composed of alumina. The Young’s modulus of the new glass, an indicator of rigidity, was twice as high than typical oxide glass and almost at the same level as steel and iron, according to the scientists.
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There's plenty of work still to do to replicate these results on a larger scale, but the Japanese team of researchers is confident that the glass can be made even tougher in the future.
Video: Glass strength test