It seems like a tube manufactured of glass but it’s truly aluminum. Nicely, aluminum with an asterisk beside it — this is not elemental aluminum but rather a substance made utilizing it.

We acquired onto the excitement about “transparent aluminum” as a final result of a Tweet from whence the impression earlier mentioned came. This Tweet was posted by [Jo Pitesky], a Science Devices Engineer at the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena. [Jo] noted that at a recent JPL technological innovation open up household she experienced the probability to deal with a tube of substance that seems to be for all the world like a part of glass tubing, but was billed as clear aluminum. [Jo] tweeted this because it was an fascinating artifact that number of men and women get to participate in with and she’s proper, this is interesting!

The the product by itself is intriguing, and I straight away had realistic issues like what is this stuff? What is it superior for? How is it created? And is it truly aluminum rendered clear by some science fiction method?

Can Aluminum Be Transparent?

As with numerous matters in lifestyle, the answer to that dilemma is, “It is dependent.” In this situation, it depends on how you define aluminum. Or extra precisely, it is dependent on what your expectations are for a product that purports to be aluminum. Typical old aluminum is an ample metallic with all the envisioned properties of metals — electrically and thermally conductive, ductile, malleable, and lustrous. You can melt it and forged it into useful designs, conquer it flat into a foil to wrap a sandwich, or crush an vacant can created from it from your forehead, if you are so inclined.

ALON blocks right after polishing. Supply: Surmet Corp

If you’re anticipating transparent aluminum to have all of all those homes, you will be disappointed. Whilst she does not determine the content exclusively, the product [Jo] received to handle was most likley not a steel at all, but a ceramic referred to as aluminum oxynitride, composed of equal elements aluminum, oxygen, and nitrogen and known by the chemical components AlON.

Aluminum oxynitride ceramics have been close to considering the fact that the 1980s, so it’s not new stuff by any indicates. Coincidentally, AlON improvement was underway a lot more or less at the exact same time that Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home was remaining produced it was from the now basic scene from that film were being Scotty takes advantage of a mouse as a microphone in an try to trade the system for “transparent aluminum” for sheets of plexiglass that AlON and similar transparent ceramics get their colloquial identify.

What is It Excellent For?

In spite of evidently not being a metallic — and not a glass either eyeglasses are amorphous solids, although ceramics are crystalline — AlON and the other transparent ceramics that have been formulated given that have some remarkable attributes. AlON, promoted as the uncreatively named ALON by its manufacturer, Surmet Company, is manufactured by sintering. Powdered ingredients are poured into a mildew, compacted under great stress, and cooked at higher temperatures for days. The ensuing translucent product is ground and polished to transparency prior to use.

Apart from being optically clear, ALON is also immensely tough. Checks exhibit that a laminated pane of ALON 1.6″ thick can prevent a 50 caliber rifle round, a little something even 3.7″ of conventional “bullet-proof” glass just can’t do. ALON also has far better optical qualities than frequent glass in the infrared wavelengths where most eyeglasses absorbs IR, ALON is fundamentally clear to it. That helps make ALON a terrific decision for the home windows on warmth in search of missiles and other IR apps.

On the downside, ALON is highly-priced — in the armored glass sector, it’s about 5 times the rate of common laminated glass. But it has so lots of advantages, not least of which is top-quality scratch resistance, that for some applications it is the materials of choice. Probabilities are superior that amplified demand for the substance will push expenditures down, and it might not be extensive in advance of Gorilla Glass is replaced by clear aluminum smartphone screens that might essentially problems the pavement when you drop your telephone.

So, sorry Scotty — there’s no this sort of factor as clear aluminum steel. But the stuff we’re calling transparent aluminum is just as interesting and just as sci-fi as it sounds. Is not material science great? If you have other attention-grabbing supplies like AlON that we should dig into, permit us know about it in the reviews beneath.

[image Source: Screen Rant, Memory Alpha]