Gorilla glass is an exceptionally strong, thin and lightweight glass that is used as a cover glass on portable electronic devices such as smartphones, laptops, iPhone, TVs and other media player devices. Scratches and bumps are a fact of life when it comes to everyday use. Gorilla glass is engineered to be damage-resistant while providing a sleek and aesthetic quality to modern day smartphones.
How is gorilla glass raw material obtained and any possible environmental effects?
To produce such a hardened glass involves the use of special materials and unique processes that ultimately lead to a very thin-sometimes only 0.5 millimeters of thickness– yet damage-resistant glass. Unlike regular glass which is made of silica sand, limestone, and soda ash, gorilla glass is composed of aluminum, magnesium and sodium ions. Some metallic oxides might also be present in the composition but should generally not exceed 0.001% of the overall composition.
In acquiring the raw materials used to make gorilla glass, a lot of energy is used and there is also a huge amount of raw material that goes to waste. This increases the carbon footprint especially since most of the energy sources are non-renewable such as crude oil, coal, and natural gas. This life cycle of acquisition of gorilla glass raw material is the most energy intensive.
The mining and refining processes produce considerable amounts of waste that not only pollute the surroundings but also pose a health hazard to the workers as well as nearby communities. Greenhouse gases such as sulfur hexafluoride are used in the purification of magnesium and contribute to global warming. This gas alone is about 23,900 times more potent than CO2 when it comes to the global warming effect.
In the case of gorilla glass, the process would have to be more exclusive and special since the glass would have been chemically altered through the ion exchange process for strengthening. This means that the chemical composition is different and the melting point will subsequently be different from regular glass. Hence, gorilla glass cannot be ideally recycled with regular glass.
The sorting out process would also be expensive and chances are high that they can be mixed with regular glass which would ruin the whole process of recycling. However, gorilla glass recycling is still possible using conventional methods where the shredded glass cullet can be added back to the manufacture of new glass panels. However, only about 12 percent of mobile devices are actually recycled once their end-of-life approaches. These leaves a considerable amount of unrecycled glass that ends up in the landfills.
What are the alternatives?
Gorilla glass is an exceptionally durable and damage-resistant glass type that has extensive use in smartphones, smartwatches, fitness trackers, laptops, tablets, televisions and more recently, in automobiles windshields. The biggest rival to gorilla glass is Asahi Glass Co’s Dragontail and other aluminosilicate glasses. Gorilla glass is manufactured by Corning Gorilla Glass, a company located in the United States. Other competitor companies which offer damage-resistant glass include:
At the moment, Gorilla Glass is overwhelmingly popular with electronics manufacturer and their dominance is going to last for a while.