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Study Shows Glass Made from Seashells are More Impact-Resistant than Laminated Glass

The glass you use in your vehicle may look attractive, but its brittle nature makes it easy to break during impact. And it’s for this reason why it’s still considered one of the most fragile materials found in your car.

But what if you can make it stronger using the nacre found inside mollusks or seashells? Nacre, or Mother of Pearl–which is opalescent and impact resistant–acts as a shield for the soft bodies of mollusks. It’s made from soft proteins that are hardened into a very tough film. According to Phys.Org, the key to their strength can be found on how they’re built–like a brick wall. These bricks are made from calcium carbonate “cemented” by proteins. What’s interesting about them is that these mineral tablets can slide past one another when they’re under stress. This helps the nacre absorb the tough blows from the jaws of hungry predators.

By Chris 73 / Wikimedia Commons

Nacre in Laminated Glass

So what does it have to do with glass? Scientist are now trying to mimic the same properties that nacre has in glass manufacture. Researchers found out that “nacre-like glass was two to three times more impact-resistant than tempered or laminated glass and 15 to 24 times more so than plain glass. At the same time, it was only marginally less transparent than conventional laminated glass.”

“Any glass scientist will tell you that shooting a powerful laser into a piece of glass is a bad idea because it will create defects and decrease strength. However, our glass is a nice example where material removal and seemingly weakening processes actually makes the material much better,” said Francois Barthelat, a mechanical engineer at McGill University in Montreal who devised the new glass with his colleagues.

It’s worth noting that nacre-like glass alone is still 10 to 15 percent less stiff than regular glass, making it more likely to buckle under intense pressure. To make it stronger, they can add in a plain glass plate in front of the nacre-like glass. Doing this alone makes it 90-percent tougher than the laminated ones.

Barthelat added that they plan to make nacre-glasses that are flexible.

“We also want to develop versions of our nacre-glass that are bendable–a thin plate of this glass would flex to large deformations, and then recover without damage,” he said.

 

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