Shatterproof glass? Researchers claim 200 times stronger glass

(Fotolia)

(Fotolia)

Brian Daly, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:31 PM ET

MONTREAL - McGill University engineers say they have made a piece of glass 200 times stronger simply by engraving it with intricate patterns.

They say the technique was inspired by the intricately designed building-block structure of seashells.

A team led by Prof. Francois Barthelat used lasers to burn tiny cracks into glass slides. This made it more difficult to shatter the glass, they said.

"By engraving networks of micro-cracks in configurations of wavy lines in shapes similar to the wavy edges of pieces in a jigsaw puzzle ... they were able to stop the cracks from propagating and becoming larger," McGill said in a statement.

"The researchers were able to increase the toughness of glass slides 200 times compared to non-engraved slides."

Researchers have studied seashells for years to try and determine how they're so resistant to breaking.

They found that the inner lining of the shells is made up of tiny blocks, invisible to the naked eye, "that are a bit like miniature Lego building blocks," Barthelat said.

It has proven too difficult to recreate the microscopic block structure, but Barthelat's team instead decided to engrave the block pattern into glass.

"In the process (the micro-cracks) absorb the energy from an impact," he said.

McGill engineers believe the same technique can be used on glass pieces of any size.

They also say the engraving process could be applicable to ceramics and polymers.

"Observing the natural world can clearly lead to improved man-made designs," Barthelat said.

The findings appear in the latest edition of Nature Communications magazine.


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