Cheaper mass-production techniques and a nearly diamond-hard surface could lead to sapphire glass replacing reinforced glass as the face of many of today’s smart phones.
Already used in bulletproof glass, watch faces and transparent military armor, sapphires, after diamonds, are the second-hardest naturally occurring substance on earth. Sapphire glass is about ten times more resistant to scratches than normal window glass, and two to three times as resistant to scratching as Corning’s Gorilla Glass – the most common type of glass currently used in smart phones.
The biggest obstacle to the widespread implementation of Gorilla Glass is the price. A pane of reinforced Gorilla Glass for a smart phone costs about $3 — a pane of sapphire glass of equivalent size costs approximately $30. However, as mass-production techniques advance and competition drives companies to develop cheaper ways to manufacture sapphire glass, the prices may soon drop. One such technique, used by GT Advanced Technologies, includes layering an incredibly thin layer of sapphire glass on top of a pane of reinforced glass.
Apple is already aware of the benefits of sapphire glass, and currently uses it to protect the rear camera lens of the iPhone 5. To see the strength of sapphire glass compared to reinforced glass, check out the video below.