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Japanese scientists have developed an ultra-hard glass that can be used in smartphone displays

A team of scientists from the University of Tokyo and Japan's Synchrotron Radiation Research Institute have developed a new type of ultra-hard glass.

Made using a oxide of aluminium called 'alumina', this new glass is thin as well as hard. The new material belongs to a category known as oxide glasses.

Previously attempts to strengthen glass via the use of alumina have failed, due to the mixture crystallising when it came into contact with the sides of the container it was in - this prevented a useful glass from being formed.

Glass production

However Atsunobu Masuno and colleagues from the Institute of Industrial Science at the University of Tokyo used oxygen gas to push the ingredients needed into the air, they then used lasers to melt them into the resulting glass.

The glass formed is transparent, colourless and extremely hard, so hard in fact that it equals the stiffness found in some metals and is close to the stiffness of certain steels according to an indicator called Young's modulus.

Also according to the Vickers hardness test method the new glass is comparable with the highest values previously recorded for oxide glasses.

Dr Masuno told the Asahi Shinbun newspaper, "We will establish a way to mass-produce the new material shortly, we are looking to commercialise the technique within five years."