Transparent Aluminum? Inspired By Star Trek, Now A Reality

The world of science fiction has always spawned ideas that have pushed technology farther than humans ever thought possible. Many of these inventions are now part of daily life, and they can frequently be accredited to television shows and movies, like Star Trek. For example, transparent aluminum, which was a concept that originally appeared in film, has gone way beyond just being a concept. It is a real product now, and one that you have to see to believe. It is quite a miracle. Take a closer look.

Concept vs. Movie

In 1986, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home debuted. It was the quintessential travel-back-in-time-to-save-the-planet sci-fi film with an obvious overtone of a "save the whales" environmental/ecology theme. In one scene, James Doohan, who plays the crew's engineer, Scotty, approaches a glass and aluminum manufacturing plant owner and requests a specific material for aquarium glass. The plant owner replies that they do make glass that will work, but to fit the specs that Scotty requires it would have to be six inches thick. Scotty replies that he can do better than that, and sits down at a computer to type in the formula for transparent aluminum, which is stronger, denser, and only requires that the transparent aluminum for aquarium glass be two inches thick. The plant owner is completely dumbfounded, accepts the terms Scotty gives him, and begins manufacturing the "aluminum glass" immediately. 

Movie vs. Reality

In 1986, transparent aluminum was just a concept. Theoretically, it was possible, but theoretically, anything is possible. Yet, people in the manufacturing industry were so fascinated by this concept that they wanted to make it a reality.

Today, transparent aluminum is a real product. It is every bit as dense, as strong, and as clear as the product from the thirty-year-old movie, and it is in regular production for anyone who wants it. Its generic name is aluminum oxynitride because it is an aluminum-oxygen-nitrogen compound. It is four times harder than fused silica glass.

Uses for Transparent Aluminum

Its most popular use is in bulletproof protection clothing for police and soldiers, but you can use it for practically anything where thicker, heavier glass would otherwise be used. The density of the aluminum "glass" means that less thickness is required to create the same effect as the glass items would.  If you would like to purchase transparent aluminum products or other aluminum products, and you want to know more about what is available, contact a company like Garelick Steel.