The people who made the superhard Gorilla Glass that you find on your smartphones have come up with a glass that folds! Yes, the smartphones of the future might be flexible enough to let the owner roll them up like a cigar.
Rolling glass like paper
Christened Willow Glass, it’s more paper than glass. Corning, the company renowned for making Gorilla Glass, is taking a different route to new technology this time. Program director Dipak Chowdhury explains that any substance can be rolled up if made thin enough. Glass isn’t inherently hard, at least not a few atomic layers thick glass. Chowdhury says:
If you take glass as thick as a business card, it’s not flexible. Think about the same business card and make it seven times thinner — it works like paper.
The immediate next step is to figure out how to manufacture rolls and rolls of glass.
The future beckons
So here’s the plan for the future. A number of layers of Willow glass can form the display of futuristic smartphones. The top layer(s) will be present exclusively for protection and the layers beneath will hold the electronics. Behind this will be the silicon backpane.
However, this is quite a bit into the future. The technology needed to implant the electronic display components onto the Willow Glass isn’t here yet! To build a plant implementing that technology is still a long shot!
The first step in that direction has been taken by Dai Nippon Printing Co. They promise to demonstrate the touch sensors and color filters, two of the essential components needed in making electronic displays, and how they can be printed onto the microscopically flat Willow Glass.
Willow replaces Gorilla as their flagship product, as Corning chugs along as the pioneer in glass technology.
Here’s a small Youtube clip about Willow Glass: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mAMZPXhxBxo