open up entirely new product categories:
cell phones and tablets that fold or roll, for
example. Thin, flexible glass might also
turn curvy surfaces such as car interiors
into touch-screen displays.
The research melter team prepares
about eight to 12 experimental pours a
day, providing samples for company scientists. The scientists want to know what
will happen if they try something new,
such as melting glass at a different temperature. The team also tests different
manufacturing methods to see how they
affect glass properties.
Potential new products are subject to
every kind of abuse Corning engineers
can think of and quantify. One machine
repeatedly bends a thin piece of glass
to see how long it will hold up; another
machine bends glass in two until it shatters with an eardrum-shocking pop. Specialists in fractography—the science of
how and why materials like glass fracture—use custom machines to measure
the pressure required to fracture glass.
With microscopes, researchers study the
mechanical messages in the resulting
crack pattern. Glass that’s stronger will
fracture with a large number of cracks;
weaker glass cracks in only a few places.
Materials that pass the test might next
be made into cell-phone dummies and
repeatedly dropped from waist height
onto cement, gravel, and other surfaces.
New glass that passes
muster is tested in a
miniature version of the
line. Glass for displays
and cell phones is made in
meters-wide sheets; this
process makes test glass
a few centimeters wide.