Alfred Poor: Antimicrobial Gorilla Glass, Corning’s License to Kill



aNewDomain.net — What’s up with the new antimicrobial Gorilla Glass from Corning? Here’s our senior tech analyst Alfred Poor with a closer look …

By now, you’ve probably heard about Corning’s Gorilla Glass. It is used as cover glass on smartphones and other mobile devices because it resists scratches and cracks much better than standard glass does.

Now there’s a new Gorilla in town. And this one has a license to kill. The latest Gorilla Glass actually will reduce the amount of bacteria that accumulates on the face of your phone, according to Corning execs who announced antimicrobial Gorilla Glass at CES 2014.

Corning's Gorilla Glass can now kill bacteria, as well as resist scratches and cracks.

Corning’s Gorilla Glass can now kill bacteria, as well as resist scratches and cracks. Image credit: Alfred Poor

First, let’s review how Gorilla Glass gets its strength. Gorilla Glass contains sodium ions, and the sheets of glass are immersed in a bath of molten potassium salts.

The larger potassium ions trade places with the smaller sodium ions, mostly at the surface of the glass and in decreasing proportion as you move further from the surface. This is like starting with a box packed full of tennis balls. You then replace some of the tennis balls at the surface with larger softballs. You have to press down hard to get the larger balls to fit, which results in a pressure within the surface.

For Gorilla Glass, this means that in the unlikely event that a scratch or crack gets started, it is less likely to grow larger due to the compression forces in the top layer of the glass.

Corning has figured out a way to add silver ions to the mix. Silver has natural antimicrobial properties. Nano-silver particles are employed in products to fight bacteria on keyboards and combat foot odor. So, by adding silver ions to Gorilla Glass, the new composition can cut down on bacteria and other microbes that might congregate on the faceplate of your phone, execs said.

Silver ions help reduce bacteria on Gorilla Glass covers.

Silver ions help reduce bacteria on Gorilla Glass covers. Image credit: Corning Glass

Corning representatives were very careful not to overstate the case. They did not, for that matter, go so far as to claim that the bacteria on your phone poses any particular health hazard.

But if you’re concerned about your exposure to unfriendly microbes, using a phone with antimicrobial Gorilla Glass can’t hurt. And consider: Some scientists now are reporting there’s a 1:6 chance that your smartphone has fecal matter on it. For a roundup of phone “soap” products showing at CES 2014 and elsewhere — that’s outside the scope of this Gorilla Glass news piece — do check out this article in The Age. We can’t vouch for these products, but again, a little knowledge won’t harm you any.

For aNewDomain.net, I’m Alfred Poor. To see all my CES 2014 pieces and those from my colleagues, scroll down.

Based in bucolic Bucks County PA, Alfred Poor is a senior technologist here at aNewDomain.net. A 30-year tech journalism vet, he’s internationally renowned for his coverage of displays. He is easily distracted by shiny, sparkly gadgets and that’s why he is covering consumer tech for us, too. Contact Alfred at Alfred@aNewDomain.net, follow him @AlfredPoor and find the +Alfred Poor Google+ stream here. Alfred also is a professional speaker, a bluegrass musician and a sailor. Check out his LinkedIn profile for more.

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  • h&&

    Great analysis, Alfred.

  • Steve

    Your description of glass is specifically about soda-lime glass, which is one of several types of glass (such as borosilicate glass). It is not the only type of glass produced, nor even the predominant type.

    The sentence “Glass contains sodium ions, and the sheets of glass are immersed in a bath of molten potassium salts…” should say “Soda-lime glass contains…”
    The more you know.

    • Alfred Poor

      Good points, Steve. I was on the doctoral committee of a friend, and one of the other committee members drew a poster for her. It was of a woman digging a hole in the ground using a teaspoon, and she’s looking at you with sweat pouring down, as she asks “How deep is ‘deep’?”
      The problem with any technology piece is titrating to find the right balance between technical accuracy and readability. Pieces that I write for display industry professionals go to a different level than ones that I write for a more general audience.
      So I appreciate your clarification, and agree that you’re right. I just hope you understand that I don’t included everything I know in a piece like this one.

  • hendog

    Amazing coverage. Best I’ve seen on the Gorilla Glass announcement. Good job anewdomain! Great anewdomainTV channel, too!

  • paqza

    Looking at that photo comparison between the bacterias on Gorilla Glass vs standard glass isn’t exactly convincing. What’s that, a 20% reduction?

  • http://attackoftheandroids.com/ Mat Lee

    I always laugh when I see people lick their phone to wipe it off lol. Maybe this will cut down on that.

  • le reddit army

    LE REDIT ARMY HAS ARRIVED! YOLO SWAG XD
    wow
    very phone
    much bacteria
    le wow
    (pls guys upvotes for doge meme)

    • Seth Wooten

      you need to be killed, with fire.

  • Gina

    Welcome Le Redit army! Taking all questions and suggestions re our site — and looking for writers! Always!

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