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Transparent and tough bulk composites inspired by nacre

Materials combining optical transparency and mechanical strength are highly demanded for electronic displays, structural windows and in the arts, but the oxide-based glasses currently used in most of these applications suffer from brittle fracture and low crack tolerance. We report a simple approach to fabricate bulk transparent materials with a nacre-like architecture that can effectively arrest the propagation of cracks during fracture. Mechanical characterization shows that our glass-based composites exceed up to a factor of 3 the fracture toughness of common glasses, while keeping flexural strengths comparable to transparent polymers, silica- and soda-lime glasses. Due to the presence of stiff reinforcing platelets, the hardness of the obtained composites is an order of magnitude higher than that of transparent polymers. By implementing biological design principles into glass-based materials at the microscale, our approach opens a promising new avenue for the manufacturing of structural materials combining antagonistic functional properties.

Nature Communications volume 10, Article number: 2794 (2019)

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