Smartphone screens as hard as a diamond! Well, almost.
Sapphire is the second-hardest material on the planet. Manufactured sapphire, a substance already used to armor some military vehicles, may make an appearance in smartphone and tablet screens. Recent company projections suggest we could see a new iPhone launch with sapphire glass coming this fall, supplied by GT Advanced.
Impervious to scratches and drops on the sidewalk that send many phones to their demise, the sapphire screens will make your devices nearly unbreakable compared to the glass displays currently used on most mobile devices. In fact, it is used in the construction of bullet-proof windshields and windows.
Apple already utilizes manufactured sapphire to protect the camera lens on the iPhone 5.
The material density is cause for concern, however. While hard and durable, sapphire is about 60% heavier than the glass that is used now.
Aside from the density and expense of the manufactured sapphire, which is said to currently be about ten times the cost of Gorilla Glass used in more than 1 billion devices, this nearly indestructible material could cause problems for electronics recyclers.
Mobile asset disposition (MAD), an innovative trend in the electronics recycling industry takes into consideration the specific process of recycling mobile devices compared to other IT equipment. 140,000,000 mobile phones go to the landfill each year, while only 10% are recycled annually. From certified data erasure to proper recycling of components like SIM cards and front displays, mobile asset disposition is becoming an essential part of processing new materials making their way into cell phones and tablets.
Sapphire is a crystalline form of aluminum oxide, a durable abrasive known for its longevity and hardness and has the ability to be recycled many times. However, current electronics recycling processes may have to be adapted to fit the changing materials embedded in devices.
According to an article describing the detailed process of making Gorilla Glass, the material is entirely recyclable so electronics recyclers need not worry.
As demand for manufactured sapphire increases, the expense to install the display on millions of smartphones and tablets will decrease, although it will never be as inexpensive as glass. GT Advanced also hinted that it won’t stop at sapphire, but will also expand its manufacturing capabilities into a range of other types of materials for use in gadget construction.