Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Mega-Glass on Devices Made with Chemicals

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Mega-Glass on Devices Made with Chemicals

Article excerpt

Ever drop your tablet or cell phone and end up surprised that the glass didn't break?

TechMan, who tended to drop so many things that his mom often called him "doppich" (Pennsylvania Dutch for "clumsy"), has wondered about cell phone toughness.

The answer is Gorilla Glass, developed especially for mobile electronics.

Walter Isaacson, in his biography of Steve Jobs, tells it this way:

"For the iPhone, the original plan was for it to have a plastic screen, like the iPod. But Jobs decided it would feel much more elegant and substantive if the screens were glass. So he set about finding a glass that would be strong and resistant to scratches."

A friend told Mr. Jobs to talk to Wendell Weeks, the young and dynamic CEO of Corning Glass in upstate New York.

"Jobs described the type of glass that Apple wanted for the iPhone, and Weeks told him that Corning had developed a chemical exchange process in the 1960s that led to what they dubbed 'Gorilla Glass.' "

"It was incredibly strong, but it never found a market, so Corning quit making it," Mr. Isaacson wrote.

"Mr. Jobs said he wanted as much Gorilla Glass as Corning could make within six months. 'We don't have the capacity,' Weeks replied. 'None of our plants make the glass now.' "

"Jobs stared at Weeks unblinkingly. 'Yes, you can do it,' he said. 'Get your mind around it. You can do it,' " Mr. Isaacson quoted Mr. Jobs as saying.

"As Weeks retold the story, he shook his head in astonishment. 'We did it in under six months," he said. " 'We produced a glass that had never been made.' "

Thus was Gorilla Glass born. By the beginning of 2011, it was used in more than a fifth of the mobile devices made worldwide.

The glass, which resists scratching and breaking much better than traditional glass, is made by a chemical exchange process.

First, sheets of glass are made using a combination of pure sand (silicon dioxide) and naturally occurring chemicals. The resulting glass is called aluminosilicate and is then stripped of impurities and melted down. …

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