The way mankind has progressed is impressive to say the least, and what was once in the realm of science fiction has once again, become reality. What am I referring to? Well, I remember transparent aluminum in Star Trek: The Voyage Home? (watch the clip below) Well, it seems that transparent aluminum is as real as it gets today, thanks to US Naval Research Laboratory scientist Dr. Jas Sanghera who described it as “actually a mineral, it’s magnesium aluminate. The advantage is it’s so much tougher, stronger, harder than glass. It provides better protection in more hostile environments—so it can withstand sand and rain erosion.”
Being a more durable material, it will boast of a thinner layer of spinel which is touted to deliver a better level of performance as opposed to glass. When one takes weight-sensitive platforms such as UAVs (unmanned autonomous vehicles, or “drones”), and head-mounted face shields, you can be sure that this is a technology that will change the way we see the world work.
Sanghera further describes the manufacturing process, so to speak, “You put the powder in [a hot press], you press it under vacuum, squash this powder together—and if you can do that right, then you can get rid of all the entrapped air, and all of a sudden it comes out of there clear-looking.” When the sheet is fresh off the press, it will be ground and polished before being refined further into other uses like bulletproof glass. Should the cost come down in due time, then consumer applications will also benefit, including smartphones and watches.
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