We’re always wondering where the next step in the evolution of window and door technology might come from. We seem to be squeezing every little drop out of the glass technology we have right now. And whilst we’re doing fine with that, there is going to come a point where we max out on that. So what’s next?

It could be spinel.

What is spinel?

Spinel is a mineral, a magnesium aluminate to be precise. It is mined in crystal form and is transparent, although it can be all sorts of tints and hues. If you want a full and very technical breakdown of the material, how it’s harvested and other very specific details, click here.

So why am I writing about it. Well, Spinel has been tested by the American military for the past decade, and they have been making some amazing progress. Out of spinel, they have been able to develop usable products, including a super-strong, clear, scratch proof, crack proof glass variant.

The US military has so far managed to develop the ceramic materials for thing like glass in lasers, and believe they can use it to replace bullet-proof glass in cars, reducing the weight at the same time. So not only is spinel ceramic super-strong, it’s super-light too.

Commercial applications

The US military seems to have been able to take it so far, so it is now handing it over to industry, and they fully believe that with the financial and knowledge available, spinel can be used on a much wider commercial basis. They’re already managing to produce the material in larger quantities already.

The forward thinkers of us should already now be thinking about if spinel could be used in things like glazing. At the moment we are years from being to use this material on a large scale commercial basis. Also, it’s still pretty expensive to make. But this is why the material and technology is being handed over to industry. I think the hopes are that they might be able to start producing more of the material on a much larger basis, and for less costs too.

But lets look at the advantages for a minute:

  • super-strong
  • super-light
  • crack proof – see link above for reasons why
  • made from crystals – something which can be mass reproduced

Should industry crack how to mass produce spinel and cheaply, it could become a viable replacement for glass, especially in areas where security is paramount. Could it be used in the residential market? Maybe, a big maybe. It would need to be as clear as glass, easy to make as glass, and of course, be as energy efficient as glass. I don’t think we yet know the insulating values of the material, but it sounds great so far, so it could well be pretty good at keeping heat in!

Imagine, a new generation of IGUs made from spinel, improving strength, security and longevity across the country. It’s a way off, but it’s exciting to think of the possibilities.

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