50-Year-Old Glass Protects Your Droid: A History of Gorilla Glass

August 3, 2010 - Written By Chris Yackulic

In the late 1950s, glass maker Corning Inc. proposed making a glass that was as strong as steel. They set to work combining layers of glass with heating experiments and named this effort “Project Muscle.” The result of their efforts produced a material that was both incredibly sturdy yet remained flexible.

Then in 1964, Corning designed a method using to make a super-thin, uniformly flat glass. This was realized by using “fusion draw,” or pumping the hot glass into a suspended trough until it overflowed, meeting beneath the trough and fusing together to make one large, hanging sheet of smooth glass. These sheets were then tempered in a chemical bath, unlike Pyrex which is tempered by heat, to create a new type of glass dubbed Chemcor.

Chemcor was to be the glass of choice in car windshields, and later in sunglasses.  Unfortunately, a British rival, Pilkington Bros., introduced a cheaper, mass-produced windshield, and the sunglasses went nowhere in the retail world.

The sheets of glass sat in a research laboratory for nearly 50 years, until 2006, when cell phone manufacturers began to look for display cover alternatives. Corning Inc. resurrected the glass and adjusted their method for production in LCD tanks, and changed it’s name to Gorilla Glass. This nearly impossible to scratch, dent, or break material is beginning to catch on with devices such as the Motorola Droid and LG’s X300 notebook and over a hundred others using it.

The next generation of TVs; frame-less flat screens using Gorilla Glass that’s thinner than a dime and almost three times stronger than ordinary LCD glass, could send this near-forgotten glass achievement into a billion-dollar a year business.  Corning Inc. is talking with Asian manufacturers now to bring Gorilla to the TV market as early as 2011 and expects to land its first deal come fall. Production is in full swing at their Harrodsburg, Ky. plant, and they are converting part of a second factory in Shizuoka, Japan, to fill a potential burst of orders by year-end.