On 11 February this year, Samsung launched the world’s first glass foldable smartphone: the Galaxy Z Flip. The manufacturer announced that by introducing twisting glass, they have literally upturned the laws of modern physics, and termed the invention as “a leap from polymer screens to ultra-thin glass technology.” In short, a perfect and unique device for those looking to buy new phones.
Samsung made it sound like a newly patented type of glass that they developed, and the company also named it as Ultra-Thin Glass (UTG). But, as the world might experience weeks later, the laws of physics aren’t that simple to disregard. So, let’s have an insight into how the device ultimately fared; what hit the target and what missed it by eons.
Samsung certainly hasn’t been misleading here about its key innovation: the Galaxy Z Flip is really a folding glass handset. It’s just that glass is actually manufactured by German supplier Schott and has got a soft, scratchable plastic substrate sitting on the top and— presumably — upcoming folding glass phones for sale that won’t need the additional protection.
Flexible glass: Why and how it works?
Glass is a delicate compound; even though you might have never smashed it personally, you’ll still know how it sounds when a glass breaks down. It’s hard even to comprehend how such a fragile substance could be transformed into a foldable flip phone.
Nevertheless, as per two material physicists who also happen to be the active members of Gorilla Glass producer Corning and Schott itself, the mechanics of glass bending is surprisingly straightforward. In the simplest terms: if you design it slim enough, almost anything can be bent.
If you twist a glass or any other material, you naturally end up extending the compound out of its bend— and even glass has somewhat flexibility. You can picture a metallic spring that spreads between two atoms, ending up elongating itself when these (atoms) are pulled in the opposite direction.
Having said that, one can only extend chemical bonds of a substance so far until it splits— a phenomenon referred to as tensile strength. Experts opine that if you roll a glass under a hundred microns thick — about the density of a human hair— that’s when it will stretch far enough for simple flipping devices without cracking out.
Handling deadly scratches
While the ‘folding glass’ feature puts Samsung Galaxy Z Flip in the league of most desirable phones for sale, a scratch can ruin it all in no time. So, how a scratch on glass can be so destructive and what has Samsung done to overcome this significant flaw?
When a pane of glass already carrying a large crack is bent with ample tension focused on the scratch, it will spread literally with the speed of sound and transited through the entire material irreparably.
That’s probably the sole reason for having a superficial polymer screen protector layer on the top of Galaxy Z Flip— it takes on most of the day-to-day handling impacts, thus preventing the disastrous cracks penetrating down under.