The Glass on Your Phone Is Actually Shrinking Before Your Very Eyes

By Sam Gibbs on at

That Gorilla Glass screen might be good at protecting your phone from scratches, smashes and the nightmare of repair bills, but did you know it's actually physically shrinking, even now while slapped across the front of your phone.

No, neither did scientists, until now. Researchers have observed glass actually behaving like a liquid for the first time. You see, glass maybe a rigid, solid substance at room temperature, but its optical properties are given to it by the random nature of the assortment of silicon atoms within its matrix -- an amorphous solid as it's known. Essentially, on the atomic scale, it looks like liquid despite being a solid.

Now scientists have discovered that the potassium and sodium ions added into the Gorilla Glass mix to boost its durability, actually move after the glass is set.

Immediately after the glass is spat out off the production line, the ions embedded in the glass exist in energetically unfavourable positions within the random array of silicon atoms. As energy levels always tend towards their lowest supported configuration it results in their slow shift into less energetic, more stable positions within your screen. This reduction in energy manifests itself in a real physical shrinkage of the glass. Scientists observed a 1-metre square of the stuff actually shrinking by 5 micrometres in all directions within the first 10 days, and then continuing to shrink another 5 micrometres during the next 18 months.

So you see, the glass on your phone is actually shrinking before your very eyes right now, just at an imperceptible rate, to the human eye at least. Thankfully, given the tiny amount the glass actually shrinks, it's not an issue for today's phones. But as everything gets smaller, and tolerances get lower with higher build quality, some day a micrometre shrinkage could make a real difference. Maybe then we'll have to wait for the glass to cure before we can slap it on a phone. [PRL]