The truth about corning glass

September 11, 2015

Another interesting quality of most high-end and mid-range smartphones is the damage resistant screen. Samsung Galaxy devices use Corning Gorilla glass for protecting the device’s screens from scratches and damage from dropping your phone, or, when you feel like whacking it with a hammer for YouTube views. The point is, Corning’s Gorilla Glass is pretty strong.

How it works

Gorilla Glass is still glass, technically, though it’s been slightly modified, what guys are calling tempered glass. Anyway, the guys over at Corning dip the normal glass in a potassium salt that is molten and alkaline. By the way, normal glass in this case is specifically soda-lime glass. The potassium ions in the solution are more reactive than sodium ions in the glass, and they replace the sodium in the glass.

Remember, all this happens at a temperature of about 400oC, so not something you can do at home. The potassium ions are larger and give the surface layer a higher residual compressive stress. This just means there’s so much pressure within the glass compared to external pressures caused by your hammer.

What this process does is make the glass strong and resistant to damage, which still leaves it susceptible to scratches. So they added an oleo phobic layer on top to prevent scratches from coins and keys in your pocket. This layer is simply a very hard surface, about 8-9H, while a knife only has about 7-8H depending on how well you maintain it. As you can see, a softer material can’t damage a harder one, so the oleo phobic layer helps protect you from scratching.

Developments in Gorilla Glass

The 3rd generation of Gorilla Glass was announced in 2013, and it’s what we’ve got on the Galaxy S4 and S5. Anyone who’s used these phones knows they crack when dropped, especially when they land face first on the floor. So, really, this glass wasn’t all that great and dropping it just to see if the rumor is true will leave you disappointed. Scratch resistance was great, though, if you kept your phone in the same pocket as your keys, but knife tests were a flop.

Last year, they released the 4th generation, which is simply awesome. The device is very nearly invincible because it takes all drops well and withstands the toughest scratches. Check out YouTube videos on the S6 to see just how well it handles. Also, an antimicrobial glass has been announced which is going to prevent spread of pathogens when you hand over your device to a friend. They haven’t been installed on any devices yet, but I don’t really care about this one.

What I want to see

Of course, we’re never going to be satisfied, there’s always something extra we are going to expect from Samsung. My problem is the overall body, there has been nothing done to protect it. Sure, you can always cover it up, but I like the feel of the actual phone, and if they can make glass withstand a hammer test, then surely they can make the aluminium a bit tougher.

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