U.S. Naval Research Lab develops transparent aluminum

The lab says the material is much tougher, stronger, and harder than glass.

November 05, 2015 |
U.S. Naval Research Lab develops transparent aluminum

The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory uses a hot press to make spinel into conformable optics, like this flat sheet. "Ultimately, we're going to hand it over to industry," says Dr. Jas Sanghera, who leads the research, "so it has to be a scalable process." Photo: U.S. Naval Research Laboratory/Jamie Hartman

As glass curtain wall and floor-to-ceiling windows increasingly become staples in today’s built environment, researchers at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory developed a stronger alternative to this popular material, TreeHugger reports.

Called Spinel, a press release from the NRL says it is "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."

Dr. Jas Sanghera of NRL describes how it is created: "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."

According to Glass Canada, architectural uses for the material include glass balconies and glass that is truly fire-resistant.

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