My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: Sapphire Screens for smartphones by Q1 2014 - Unscratchable Sign of Virgo is the Man of Steel to revive Jamaican Alumina Industry

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Sapphire Screens for smartphones by Q1 2014 - Unscratchable Sign of Virgo is the Man of Steel to revive Jamaican Alumina Industry

“Gorilla Glass is still glass, so the way that you break glass is that you score it, and then it breaks. So when you scratch your mobile phone, that’s why when you drop your mobile phone it breaks – because there are scratches in it. So, with sapphire, because you cannot scratch it, it doesn’t break. So if you drop your phone, or abuse it, it won’t break. It’s very, very rugged. It won’t scratch; it won’t break … You could throw this phone against a cement wall and it won’t break … well, the phone might break, but the screen will stay intact”

Dan Squiller of GT Advanced in an interview with Digital Trends' Jeffrey Van Camp while abusing a Gorilla Glass Screen at the MWC (Mobile World Congress) held in the week of Monday January 25th

I was trolling across the Internet minding my own business when I came across a gem of a story, literally, named Sapphire.  San Juan Capistrano, California based Xgear is gearing up to become the first maker of a Sapphire Screen Protector called Krystal, Kickstarter style of course as noted in the Kickstarter article “Krystal Genuine Sapphire Screen Protector -- iPhone 4/4S & 5”, Launched  April 8, 2013 by XGear, XgearLive.

Started on Monday April 8th 2013, Xgear’s campaign aims, oddly, to raise a modest US$10,000 by Wednesday May 8th 2013. They’re already one-third (1/3) of the way with 25 days left, so they might hit their target long before the date comes around.

But what interesting is the material they’re using. It’s not Corning’s Gorilla Glass 2 or it successor Gorilla Glass 3. It’s a naturally occurring mineral that got some serious game changing advantages over Gorilla Glass, according to Xgear:

1.      Unscratched Sapphire is 2.5X stronger than unscratched Gorilla Glass II in Impact Testing
2.      Abraded Sapphire is 5.9X stronger than abraded Gorilla Glass II in Impact Testing
3.      Unscratched Sapphire was 8.9X stronger than Abraded Gorilla glass in Impact Testing
4.      Sapphire is unaffected by damage from sand, metal, concrete, and rocks.
5.      Sapphire is 3.3X harder than Glass (Vickers)

It may in fact replace it on Smartphones by Fourth Quarter of 2013 or the First Quarter of 2014 as noted in the article “Smartphones Could Pack Sapphire Screens by End of the Year”, published March 21, 2013 6:02 PM, by Jason Mic, DailyTech and Smartphones Could Get Sapphire Touch Screens, published Mar 22, 2013 02:56 PM ET by Jesse Emspak, Discovery News.

It’s Sapphire or a polycrystalline Aluminium Oxide (Al2O3) or alumina as it’s called at JAMALCO in Halse Hall, Clarendon, Jamaica. There are in fact many form of Alumina, all of which are various crystalline arrangements of the Aluminium Oxide (Al2O3) atoms.

Sapphire, a Blue mineral that’s associated with the Zodiac Sign Virgo, is popular as an engagement present and necklaces for Girlfriends who rule under the sign of Virgo. It’s also the second toughest naturally occurring material on the face of the planet Earth, next after Diamonds (polycrystalline macro-molecular Carbon). Rated at 9H on the hardness scale which maxes out at 10H, it can only be cut and shaped by a diamond impregnated saw!

How cool is that!

But more interestingly, Sapphire shares the same heritage as Diamonds, in that it can also be artificially grown from crystals using Alumina as a base Material. The Charts below tell a better tale of the powers of the Blue Gemstone.

Interestingly, it was the other talk of the Town at the Townhouse meeting of Mobile Telecoms Big-Wigs, MWC (Mobile World Conference) that had lasted for a week from Monday February 25th 2013.

It impressed both with its hardness and scratchproof properties as noted in “This sapphire smartphone screen is strong, strong, strong”, published February 28, 2013 4:38 AM PST by Jessica Dolcourt, CNET News and “Phone 5 with scratch resistant sapphire screen demoed at Mobile World Congress 2013”, published March 1, 2013 by Bob Yirka, Physorg.

The slideshow in CNET News’ “Sapphire screens: Almost diamond-hard” and the video fills in the blanks.

With such properties, it’s no wonder that companies such as New Hampshire based GT Advanced Technologies is developing Economy-of-scale manufacturing processes. GT Advanced Technologies may be the source of Xgear’s starter material to make their Krystal line of Sapphire Screen Protectors. GT Advanced Technologies’ aim is not so much to sell Sapphire Sapphire (Al2O3) screens but rather to license the technology to others, thus creating capacity globally.

This economy-of-scale aims to reduce the cost from the current US$30 per screen to closer to the US$3 per screen to make it price competitive with Gorilla Glass as stated in “Your next phone screen could be made of sapphire”, published March 21, 2013 Updated 1700 GMT by Doug Gross, CNN.

Sapphire (Al2O3) is grown from molten ingots in Vacuum Crucible Chamber Process remarkably similar to making Ingots of Silicon for Microprocessors. A sapphire seed, about the size of a hockey puck is placed on a platform known as “The Finger” at the bottom of a Chamber made of molybdenum known as a crucible. The Hockey puck shaped Sapphire (Al2O3) seed, which sits atop “The Finger” is cooled by Liquid Nitrogen to prevent the Sapphire (Al2O3) melting too early in the process.

The Sapphire (Al2O3) seed is then mixed with a form of Corundum (Al2O3), yet another crystalline form of Aluminium Oxide (Al2O3) along with spend Sapphire (Al2O3) left over from previous runs of the process that had failed to form properly into a crystal, effectively recycling wasted material.

It is then over the next the next sixteen of seventeen (16-17) days heated at a temperature as high as 2200 C under hard Vacuum (no air) conditions, effectively Vacuum Pyrolysis Crystallization involving a series of melting and cooling cycles. At the end of this period resulting product in the oven is a cylindrical section of pure Sapphire (Al2O3) called a Boule. It’s cut into blocks using Diamond saws from the Boules and then into the desired shapes for whatever products that are desired.

But Engineers at GT Advanced Technologies are working on a method of growing the crystals as hair-thin sheets, significantly shaving (again another pun!) some time and cost off the process of making it into sheets and using in other larger screened products such as LCD TV, Computer Displays and even Tablets.

For certain Smartphones are coming out in the Fourth Quarter of 2013 that have Sapphire (Al2O3) screens, priced apparently for the Wealthy, such as the Vertu TI as described in “Vertu TI hands-on: The first Vertu phone you’ll want to own, but can’t afford”, published February 12, 2013 By Andy Boxall, Digitaltrends

 It’ll be a game-changer for the Touch-Screen world that prone to scratching with keys and breaking and shattering on impact when dropped.

Sapphire (Al2O3) may also make such products as Amazon’s idea for an airbag for smartphones as explained in my blog article entitled “Amazon patents Fall Prevention Technology for smartphones and Tablets - The Research begins with Amazon’s patent that’s Hyde Park on Hudson (2013) a little less necessary, at least until Sapphire prices come down to the US$3 mark for a smartphone screen.

It may also mean screen protectors made of plastic as prescribed at the end of my Geezam blog article “How to make your own Cleaning Fluid and Cleaning Tips for your Smartphone or Tablet”may be unnecessary as well if the screen’s already oleophobic, scratchproof and unbreakable by the First Quarter of 2014.

But what’s got my eye is the fact that Sapphire is a polycrystalline form of Alumina aka Aluminium Oxide (Al2O3), which can be made from Alumina Trihydrate (Al2O3.3H2O) derived from Bauxite but with the Water Removed. This now presents the possibility of a value added product that can be made from Alumina Trihydrate (Al2O3.3H2O), the main product of JAMALCO in Halse Hall, Clarendon Jamaica based Bauxite plant and other Alumina Plants.

Using the Crucibles licensed and purchased from GT Advanced Technologies, some of the Alumina (Al2O3) product that’s unsuitable for clients can be made into higher value Sapphire (Al2O3) both for local use in the Jewelers Trade as well as for export to make Sapphire Screens for everything from Smartphones and Tablets to even LCD TV Screens and possibly even Aircraft and household Louvre windows.

So I guess there is a Jamaican connection here. 

The red mud dumped in the RDA (Residue Disposal Area) can be further centrifuged:

2.      Titanium (Ti) and Iron Oxide (FeO2) and in the process revitalize mined out Bauxite Lands as surmised in “Rare Earth Metals Extraction from RDA Red Mud's got Titanium and Iron by-products - All You Need is Kill the Scrap Metal Industry and Agriculture benefits in The Place Beyond the Pines”.

Now it seems that the Alumina which is powdered Aluminium Oxide (Al2O3) , a white product and the final product of Alumina Trihydrate (Al2O3.3H2O) from Precipitation Department  via calcinations in Calcination Department , can be further  melted in a Vacuum and grown into ingots of a blue 9H Sapphire (Al2O3) Crystals. Unscratchable and Indestructable Man of Steel (2013) revival of the Alumina Industry in Jamaica.

But what of improvements to Battery Technology, possibly in the form of Water Powered Batteries as hoped for in my Geezam blog article “Kyoto University’s Water-powered Smartphone Batteries and SHARP’s IGZO power Efficient Screen for 2013”? Stay tuned to my blog for more details!

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