Quebec, Canada -- A snail shell-inspired development is using a polyurethane solution to create glass 200 times tougher than available in the market today.
McGill University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering developed a glass that will bend and distort rather than break at impact.
Francois Barthelat, associate professor, at the university's department of mechanical engineering, said although mollusc shells are 95% chalk, which is brittle in its pure form, they also have a nacre – a mother of pearl inner lining – which he likens to “miniature Lego building blocks.”
His team studied the internal ‘weak’ boundaries or edges of the nacre then laser-engraved the 3D micro-crack networks they found in them onto glass slides. In recreating the shell’s weak boundaries on the slides, Barthelat said the team uncovered some “dramatic results.”
The micro-crack configurations, wavy line shapes similar to the edges of jigsaw puzzle pieces, in the surface of borosilicate glass stopped the cracks becoming larger.
As extra insurance against shattering, the micro-cracks were filled with polyurethane.