A Brief History of Corning’s Gorilla Glass

If you’re at all intrigued by the history and material science behind the iPhone’s glass screen, which was invented by Corning in the 60s, you may want to read this lengthy story in Wired.

Apple was suddenly demanding massive amounts of a 1.3-mm, chemically strengthened glass—something that had never been created, much less manufactured, before. Could Chemcor, which had never been mass-produced, be married to a process that would yield such scale? Could a glass tailored for applications like car windshields be made ultrathin and still retain its strength? Would the chemical strengthening process even work effectively on such a glass? No one knew. So Weeks did what any CEO with a penchant for risk-taking would do. He said yes.

And, then there is this:

In just five years, Gorilla Glass has gone from a material to an aesthetic—a seamless partition that separates our physical selves from the digital incarnations we carry in our pockets. We touch the outer layer and our body closes the circuit between an electrode beneath the screen and its neighbor, transforming motion into data. It’s now featured on more than 750 products and 33 brands worldwide, including notebooks, tablets, smartphones, and TVs. If you regularly touch, swipe, or caress a gadget, chances are you’ve interacted with Gorilla.

Corning’s revenue from the glass has skyrocketed, from $20 million in 2007 to $700 million in 2011. And there are other uses beyond touchscreens. At this year’s London Design Festival, Eckersley O’Callaghan—the design firm responsible for some of Apple’s most iconic stores—unveiled a serpentine-like glass sculpture made entirely from Gorilla Glass. It may even end up on windshields again: The company is in talks to install it in future sports car models.

This is fascinating on so, so, so many levels.

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