When a brand new phone first comes out, what’s the first type of video you might look for on Youtube? Maybe you’re more concerned with a review of the unit, or and initial hands-on of the features, but it seems like most people go straight for the drop test videos right away. This curiosity with a $700 device shattering at a certain height and drop angle has always been a curious thing, but nonetheless fairly meaningful. Can your new phone break at any height, or has your favorite phone manufacturer finally built-in some quality control and fashioned the device in a more sturdy way? Drop tests might not matter so much in the very near future if companies like Samsung, LG and now Nippon Electric Glass Co. (NEG) have to say about it. We’ve seen a lot about flexible displays and unbreakable displays lately, with Samsung looking to start manufacturing its first 5.5-inch flexible display this month, and LG looks like they will beat Samsung to the punch with the LG Z, the world’s first smartphone with a flexible display. But how unbreakable is this new glass, really? Thankfully NEG was at the Ceatec 2013 expo to show off a bunch of their products, some of which are already in production equipment around the world.
First up is Zer0 glass which can withstand extremely hot temperatures and rapid heating or cooling without expanding or cracking. Zer0 glass was demonstrated by being heated to 400 degrees celsius, a temperature that’s extraordinarily hot no matter where you live, and then spraying it with cold water so it cooled rapidly. This type of glass could prove particularly useful in ruggedized devices that could be withstanding constant hot to cold scenarios.
Then there was Invisible Glass, and while it was being shown off to more of a museum type audience for displaying art without all the glare, the obvious implications of a smartphone screen without any glare are too numerous to even list. While normal glass reflects somewhere around 4 percent of the light shone on it, Invisible Glass only reflects 0.8 percent, making the name painstakingly obvious when trying to actually view the material from the front. It’s only when you move around to the side that you can see it better.
Now for the particularly interesting stuff as it pertains to flexible displays, NEG showed off a new type of flexible glass called G-Leaf glass. This glass, as you can see above, was shown off on a spool and wrapped around in a complete loop. G-Leaf glass is only 35 microns thick, that’s 0.035 millimeters for the mathematically challenged out there, and brings a whole new meaning to the term thin glass. What’s even more impressive is that there is a second type of G-Leaf glass with Indium Tin Oxide coating on it; the same type of coating used on many smartphone displays to make them extremely scratch resistant. This brings the glass up to a 100 micron thickness, but being .1 millimeters thick is still thinner than any other smartphone glass out there.
Last but certainly not least is the T2x glass, a super strong, tempered glass that was said to already be in some smartphones out there. NEG had rigged a setup with a 500-gram steel ball that dropped every 30 seconds from the height of about a meter or so. The ball would fall and bounce off the front of the glass every time without breaking. While this weight and height may not be the most impressive sounding thing in the world, your current smartphone of choice probably wouldn’t last the beating for very long if at all. All this adds up to some pretty exciting possibilities of a caseless future in the world of smartphones.