A Scientist’s Way of Making Super-Strong iPhone Cases

By Anupum Pant

Bulk Metallic Glasses (BMGs) A.K.A Amorphous metals, give you the goodness of both metals and glasses. They literally are glasses made out of metal. Unlike the most crystalline metals, BMGs are made by cooling certain liquid metals very quickly to lock the disordered glassy structure in place. They aren’t crystalline like your everyday metals and instead have a structure like that of glasses – disordered.

Some of these BMGs have amazing properties. Like super high hardness, about 3 times the hardness of steel is one of the most alluring properties they have.

They’ve been around since the 60s, and mass producing them has always been tough. Until now, BMGs were never used for something as ordinary as a smartphone case. But the recent innovation in manufacturing coming from a Materials scientist at Yale will probably soon bring to the market these new iPhone covers that’d be 50 times harder than plastic, or 10 times harder than Aluminium, and almost three times the hardness of steel.

Gallium Metal Melts in Your Hands

By Anupum Pant

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Atomic number: 31
Symbol: Ga

At first what seems like an uninteresting material, Gallium, in truth has, much more to it than meets the eye.

Gallium’s melting point

Like most other metals, Gallium is solid at room temperature (or liquid if it is too hot in your room). But, if it is held [in hands] for long enough, it melts in your hands, and doesn’t poison you like Mercury would. This is because of its unusually low melting point of (~29 degree Centigrade). It can melt by drawing heat from a human body which is normally at around 37 degrees.

Buy Gallium: This property, and the affordable price of $24 for 15 grams, probably makes it an appropriate gift for science geeks. They will love making mirrors at home by sticking it onto plain glass sheets.

Talking about a classic prank, it is advised to beware of the scientists who would offer spoons made out of Gallium to unsuspecting guests at a tea party. These spoons melt in hot tea and make it a potentially harmful concoction to ingest.

Since it isn’t poisonous like Mercury, Gallium is often mixed with Indium to further lower its melting point to -19 degrees. This makes it a safer option for us to use in thermometers instead of Mercury.

Interesting uses and compounds

  • Dilute sulphuric acid changes the surface properties of Gallium due to the formation of Gallium Sulfide on the surface. It no longer sticks that badly to glass, gets pulled up into a ball and starts beating like a heart when dichromate is added.
  • 98% of the world’s Gallium metal is used as Gallium Arsenide and Gallium Nitride, used in the electronic industry for making semiconductors, LEDs and high-speed circuits. In fact the laser in your Blu-Ray player is also made using Gallium.
  • Probably the most amount of Gallium used in a single place is at a Neutrino observatory in Russia. It houses around 57 tons of liquid Gallium.
  • With Silicon, Graphite and Molybdenum, Gallium is also used in ski wax to make skis more slippery.
  • Finally, nothing beats a metal that melts in your hands.