Looking To Nature
Many designers have looked to nature for inspiration. Now, it seems that Mother-of-pearl, a material found on the inside of most seashells, could be the next big thing. It might be made of brittle calcium carbonate, but this is extremely strong and tough.
Learning The Science
What makes it so tough? That would be the hexagonal platelets that are joined together with flexible biopolymers. This means the platelets slide over one another when they are hit to spread the impact rather than shattering into many pieces. Cracks will, therefore, often stay in one place.
To The Test
Many researchers have been trying to recreate these properties in glass to make screens that could be shatterproof once and for all. Francois Barthalat works at McGill University where his team have used lasers to engrave these patterns onto thin sheets of glass. They can then be laminated together with a special plastic that breaks the layers into tiny hexagons.
Now, it looks as though everything from phone screens to windshields could be put to the test as the new shatterproof glass should hopefully stop huge cracks from forming. Sure, the glass might still break a little, but it is set to be a lot stronger and will localize any damage instead.
Planet Earth is an incredible place filled with intricate designs all forged by Mother Nature herself. Thankfully, it appears that one test of strength and durability could soon see us reaping all the benefits – all thanks to seashells.