The Denver metropolitan area’s May 8, 2017, hail storm caused a record $1.4 billion in damage. Insurance claims for automobiles and trucks were second only to claims for hail damage to homes and personal property.

Gorilla Glass for Tougher, Lighter Windshields

The most-overlooked piece of safety equipment may soon be in line for an upgrade, one that’s been overdue for about a century.

Gorilla Glass, the same material that makes your iPhone damage resistant, may soon be your new windshield as it offers better protection than traditional methods and is beginning to crack open the automotive industry, according to analysis from industry journal Chemical & Engineering News.

The plastic layer that keeps windshields from shattering into a million loose pieces during an auto accident has changed frequently over the years, but the formula for the glass inside has only changed a little, CEN writer Mitch Jacoby reported. Not all glass is alike: The differences between light bulbs, juice glasses, and bullet-proof glass are due to chemical strengthening. While smartphone and tablet glass sheets sometimes break, the material is remarkably strong for its thin size and can make a new generation of automobile safety glass.

Ford recently began using lightweight windshields, and rear engine covers made with Gorilla Glass in its GT sports car, the first time chemically strengthened glass has been used in production automobiles, CEN reported.

It’s not clear when the premium glass will make it from $500,000 vehicles to your car or how much it will cost. However, Colorado motorists might want to start asking. Some journals are reporting that the glass is highly resistant to hail storm damage.

An Answer to Denver’s ‘Hail Alley’ Storm Damage?

The Denver metropolitan area’s May 8, 2017, hail storm caused a record $1.4 billion in damage, according to the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association. Most of those costs were for homeowner’s insurance claims, followed by automotive damage. From 2013 to 2015, Colorado was second only to Texas for the highest number of hail insurance claims, 182,591. Texas had 394,572. Colorado’s Front Range is said to be at the center of “Hail Alley”, receiving the greatest frequency of large hail in North America and most of the world. Residents can expect three or four catastrophic storms each year.

Safer Glass Through Scientific Development

Modern safety glass got its start in 1903 when a French chemist came up with the idea of coating glass with cellulose plastic to prevent shattering. The idea developed into a sandwich of two sheets of glass and one sheet of plastic between them. Windshield manufacturers began to temper the glass with heat so it would break into small, regular cubes instead of big shards. In the 1960s, Corning Glass researchers began developing processes to harden glass by treating it with hot liquid chemicals. The thin, lightweight, super-strong glass was used mainly for industrial and pharmaceutical uses until 2005 when Corning developed its Gorilla Glass for use on Apple iPhones.

Transparent Differences, Superior Characteristics

Corning developed its new, Gorilla Glass windshields with one layer of the special glass, a plastic layer, and then an outer sheet of traditional glass. It is twice as “tough” as ordinary automotive glass, and that strength and damage resistance can mean half as many windshield cracks and half as many windshield replacements, Corning says. It weighs 40 percent less than traditional windshields, which can improve vehicle acceleration, handling, and braking. The glass offers vastly improved clarity and will enable future cars to have larger, clearer heads-up displays. In July of 2017, the glassmaker publicly displayed a concept car with a dashboard made almost completely of Gorilla Glass.

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