Follow Slashdot stories on Twitter


Forgot your password?
Science Technology

Transparent Aluminum a Reality 759

TuballoyThunder writes "Many of us remember the scene from Star Trek IV where Scotty barters the formula for transparent aluminum for a small run. It now appears that we can now add transparent aluminum to the science fact column."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Transparent Aluminum a Reality

Comments Filter:
  • by marsperson ( 909862 ) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @03:56AM (#13815116)
    The ability to wrap your mother's sandwiches in transparent aluminum and loose your apetite before you even unwrap it!
    • "...loose your apetite before you even unwrap it!"

      I guess if you loosed your appetite on an unwrapped sandwich, you'd end up eating the whole thing wrapper and all! An amusing picture, even if you meant to type "lose" and suggest the opposite. :)
      • by moro_666 ( 414422 ) <kulminaator&gmail,com> on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @06:03AM (#13815523) Homepage
        a) cost of a sandwich :
          about 1$

        b) cost of a research to invent invisible aluminium :
          about 1 zillion $

        c) the face of your boss when he takes a bite of
        his lunch and appears to have mouth full of cutting metal :

        it would be cool to "see" a pc case made out of it thou (obviously you cant see it but you can pretend it's there :p)
        • by Jason1729 ( 561790 ) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @07:01AM (#13815696)
          it would be cool to "see" a pc case made out of it thou (obviously you cant see it but you can pretend it's there :p)

          You mean the way uoi can't see a case made oud of acrylic?

          Damn, I had a drinking glass full of water on the table somewhere, if only it weren't invisible I could find it....oh yeah, clear != invisible.
        • by indifferent children ( 842621 ) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @07:52AM (#13815872)
          While you're spending your $1z on research, can you find out if transparent aluminum foil protects from government mind control rays as well as regular aluminum foil? Not that I'll believe your government-funded 'research'.
          • by houghi ( 78078 ) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @08:49AM (#13816195)
            can you find out if transparent aluminum foil protects from government mind control rays as well as regular aluminum foil?

            Yes, it does. It is even much, much better, so change your regular with the transparent one.

            Not that I'll believe your government-funded 'research'.

            Oh, in that case: The transparent version does NOT protect you. The regular one is much better.

            Now that I wrote that, you rpobably think the regular one is better. See? We are already in your head.
    • by kt0157 ( 830611 ) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @05:24AM (#13815413)
      Then there's Helum, that noble gas. And Kurchatovum, that incredibly unstable element. And Lithum, of which batteries are made. Not forgetting Valum, for people too depressed to worry about spelling.

      Yes, yes, I know, a whole continent of people can't spell that metal's name. It's just like the English who wrote "cocoa" when they should have written "cacao". Amazing how an illiterate in the wrong place at the wrong time can screw up a dictionary.

      • by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @08:32AM (#13816091)
        Here's the funny thing about language - it changes. Sometimes for a good reason, sometimes for a bad reason. Resisting that will doom you to a life of, well, posting frustrated comments on slashdot complaining about how people spell aluminum. In particular, this "mispronunciation" is about 100 years old, and no amount of slashdot posting is going to change that. Move on.
      • I once read a nice article by Isaac Asimov about this spelling thing.I do not remember which of the hundreds of books he wrote the article was in but it is out there somewhere. I am doing this from memory but the story goes like this:
        It seems the roots of most metals are like this: magnesium potassium

        But the root of aluminum is alumina, no 'i'. The British stuck one in anyway for consistency because all the other metals have it. The American English version is more correct, acc
  • A Great Send-Off (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jIyajbe ( 662197 ) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @03:57AM (#13815119)
    Very appropriate to announce this discovery at the same time James Doohan's remains are being sent into space. One wonders if there is a closet Trekker in the military press office. :-)


    • by Spock the Baptist ( 455355 ) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @04:08AM (#13815153) Journal
      What do you want to bet that it was designed on a Macintosh...

      Oh would that ever be sweet! :D
      • by CaptDeuce ( 84529 ) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @09:32AM (#13816504) Journal
        ALONtm is virtually scratch resistant, offers substantial impact resistance, and provides better durability and protection against armor piercing threats, at roughly half the weight and half the thickness of traditional glass transparent armor, said the lieutenant.

        [time warp]

        Tuesday, October 13, 2009

        Cupertino CA -- Apple Computer faces rising complaints of "scratches" that reportedly developed on the cases of their iPod Angstrom virtual reality player. The device, which feeds audio, video, and olfactory images directly to the brain, is implanted under the skin behind the ear, remaining there for up to three days. It is this repeated insertion and extraction of the device which causes scratches on the iPod's case.

        "The scratches are obvious," say disgruntled user Mitch Burnsome, "I can see them clearly under my microscope, at maginications as low as 20 times. Apple's quality control is dreadful."

        Apple responded that the iPod Angstrom case is very durable. "The case is made of ALONtm which is used as armor on tanks and Humvees; it's virtually scratch resistant," said Apple spokesperson Anton Natale. "Steve Jobs has been using a prototype for the past six months and declares that it works so well with his brain that it's 'sanely great'."

        Since the release of the iPod Angstrom four hours ago, Apple has sold 7 million units. The price of Apple stock dropped 7% after analysts complained that sales were projected to be 7.1 million units by this time.

      • In other news, a man ,Homeland Security believes to be a Chechen rebel, was seen wandering the streets of nearby towns looking for nuclear wessels.Is it a coincidence he has shown up just as transparent aluminum has become a reality? He was accompanied by a dark skinned woman of possible Somalian origin. They are just people of interest at this point.
    • I KNEW it! Scotty didn't die. He just went back in the Bird of Prey.

      Everyone, check your local marine park for missing Whales now!!
  • hmm (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Gronkers ( 912221 ) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @03:59AM (#13815122)
    Now if we could only arm our military vehicles with convential armor let alone the nifty new stuff..
    • Re:hmm (Score:5, Funny)

      by B2382F29 ( 742174 ) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @04:30AM (#13815238)
      Well, that would cost you an arm and a leg ... either way.
    • Re:hmm (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rtb61 ( 674572 )
      Interesting idea that one, now if you consider the original humvee as a general transport vehicle admittedly a hugely expensive piece of gas guzzling pork and the armoring it for yet another rather cunning and expensive piece of additional pork. Stop and think about all those existing armored cars which where in fact designed to do that job (still far more effectively armored) and those cheap fuel efficient jeeps that used to used to provide general non-combat transport. Of course soldiers are cheaper and t
  • Hmm (Score:5, Funny)

    by psilonaut ( 756938 ) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @03:59AM (#13815123)
    How quaint.
  • by kg_o.O ( 802342 ) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @04:00AM (#13815125)
    No pics :(
  • by Muhammar ( 659468 ) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @04:02AM (#13815129)
    when you read the article, you find out that the material is not aluminum metal. It is just a transparent corund-like substance. Al203 alone is pretty hard (and easy to make - including gem colored versions) and the mixed oxide-nitride is probably harder.

  • soda (Score:5, Funny)

    by Cave_Monster ( 918103 ) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @04:03AM (#13815131)
    Does anyone remember being told when they were a child, not to leave your can of drink open while outside for fear of a wasp/bee getting inside and consequently a painful next sip?

    Perhaps with this technology we can have see-through cans and this will no longer be a problem :)

  • by jabuzz ( 182671 ) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @04:04AM (#13815135) Homepage
    Sound just what Apple need to make some scratch resistant screens for the iPod Nano :)
  • by blackomegax ( 807080 ) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @04:05AM (#13815138) Journal
    seriously. give the nano a nice coat of this and i think apple's little scratching post will turn into something nice and...well...scratchless
  • Beanie (Score:5, Funny)

    by svvampy ( 576225 ) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @04:05AM (#13815139)
    Does this mean that I can get a new beanie that will protect me from the mind-controlling probes of the government, but not make me look more like a freak?

    I don't think that'll catch on.

  • Aluminium! (Score:3, Informative)

    by paulhar ( 652995 ) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @04:07AM (#13815148)
    • Re:Aluminium! (Score:3, Informative)

      by HugePedlar ( 900427 )
      Interestingly (or not, as the case may be) the discoverer of "aluminium" decided to call it "aluminum" but the British Chemical Naming Commission (or whatever they're called) insisted that all metals end in "ium" so they overrode him.
    • Re:Aluminium! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MightyYar ( 622222 )
      You know your post on slashdot is uninformative if you can be replaced by a bot:


      do while true
      if slashdot post contains "aluminum","color","honor"
      post message subject = "aluminium", "colour", "honour" body = "Grr..."
      end while
  • Finally! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Moe Napoli ( 826364 ) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @04:07AM (#13815149)
    I can now order my Wonder Woman jet! Now's where's my Golden Lasso and Amazon Bangles? Soon I hope. Now, if only surgery took well, I'd be all set...
  • Humvee Windshields (Score:5, Insightful)

    by deathcow ( 455995 ) * on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @04:07AM (#13815150)

    IIRC the windshield of a Humveee is about 72" x 23"... thats 1656 square inches. The article quotes $10 - $15 a sq. inch, so the windshield would be worth $16,560 to $24,840.... I guess they wont be protecting fleets of vehicles with them?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @04:09AM (#13815158)
    The Air Force Research Laboratory's materials and manufacturing directorate is testing aluminum oxynitride -- ALONtm

    And look.. the trademark is built right in as well!
  • by dummyname12 ( 886454 ) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @04:10AM (#13815162)
    The military is planning to test this new material on its nuclear wessels.
  • Ooooh. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DrEldarion ( 114072 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [0791uhcsm]> on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @04:10AM (#13815163)
    What'll be really nice is when prices get down to be viable for use in consumer-grade products. Say goodbye to broken windows from baseballs, cracked screens on dropped iPods, chipped windshields from rocks, and all sorts of other fun uses.

    It should open up some cool architectural possibilities as well.
  • by slittle ( 4150 ) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @04:16AM (#13815188) Homepage
    See also here [] for earlier developments in this area.
  • Sapphire (Score:5, Informative)

    by obender ( 546976 ) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @04:27AM (#13815232)
    Sapphire which is basically a crystal of aluminium oxide has been synthetised almost 100 years ago and is commonly used nowadays. Some non-scratch watches use that instead of glass.
  • Case mod! (Score:3, Funny)

    by gobbledok ( 201300 ) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @04:28AM (#13815233)
    A transparent case made of aluminium...Mmmmm, aluminium..
  • Hey! (Score:4, Funny)

    by dangitman ( 862676 ) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @04:38AM (#13815267)
    I'm 40% aluminium! Bender
  • Bad Trek Trivia (Score:4, Informative)

    by Archibald Buttle ( 536586 ) <steve_sims7&yahoo,co,uk> on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @04:49AM (#13815304)
    Scotty doesn't trade the formula for transparent aluminium for a small run of the stuff. He trades for a quantity of perspex.

    Dr. Nichols says it'll take him "years to even calculate the matrix". Besides that, the stuff they delivered and installed was clearly perspex - it would have been much thinner had it been transparent aluminium.
    • Scotty doesn't trade the formula for transparent aluminium for a small run of the stuff. He trades for a quantity of perspex.

      OK, but WHY did they have to get perspex? Why not just get, oh, I don't know, REGULAR ALUMINUM? Or plate steel, which would be even thinner and cheaper than either? They go through this huge effort of screwing around with the space-time continuum and everything to get something transparent, but apparently nobody has even considered the possibility of making the tank, I dunno, NON-T

  • by KylePflug ( 898555 ) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @04:51AM (#13815313)
    In a June 2004demonstration, an ALONtm test pieces held up to both a .30 caliber Russian M-44 sniper rifle and a .50 caliber Browning Sniper Rifle with armor piercing bullets. While the bullets pierced the glass samples, the armor withstood the impact with no penetration.
    OK, I'm not exactly a gun nut, but that's damn impressive. .50 cal snipers are designed to take out the engine blocks of vehicles. A window stopping them is just plain cool.

    The uses go way beyond windshields. How about full-length transparent SWAT shields? If it'll take a .50-cal, should be more than safe enough. How about implrementing some of this in monitor screens? Watch faces? Heck, light fixtures in gymnasiums.

    What about airplanes? Make much of the body out of this, making maintenance that much easier.

    ... in retrospect, that last is a horrible idea. But the others remain good ;)
  • by wangotango ( 711037 ) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @04:53AM (#13815322)
    How will the rest of the world recognize us if our tinfoils hats are transparent?
  • God dammit! (Score:3, Funny)

    by PhotoBoy ( 684898 ) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @05:00AM (#13815343)
    Scotty's been messing with the timeline again! What next, Mr. Scott? Warp drive in the Victorian era?
  • by williamhb ( 758070 ) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @05:22AM (#13815408) Journal
    Unfortunately, from the article it seems ALONtm is noted for it's high compressive strength, whereas to build the sides of a whale-sized bath you need high tensile strength. Unless of course it's a particularly aggressive whale and keeps shooting armour-piercing rounds at the side of the bath, but then the bigger question would be "how did it pull the trigger"?
  • No news here (Score:3, Informative)

    by ishmaelflood ( 643277 ) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @05:28AM (#13815427)
    Thinnish coating of aluminum oxide on glass/plastic multilayer laminate improves its strength and scratch resistance.

    News for non chemical nerds, maybe. A bit ho hum for anybody familiar with the AMAZING see through properties of things like aluminumium oxide, aka rubies and saphires.

  • Pictures (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pev ( 2186 ) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @06:13AM (#13815548) Homepage
    Google finds some pics as expected (Sorry, PDF) : []

    I'm not 100% certain if they're genuine or mock ups though...

  • Corrosion Resistance (Score:3, Interesting)

    by N8F8 ( 4562 ) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @06:42AM (#13815640)
    I wonder thet the corrosion resistance is of this stuff. Most aluminum materials don't do well in the weather and I imagine even minor pitting would impact transparency.
  • M-44 sniper rifle? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Yonder Way ( 603108 ) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @06:48AM (#13815659)
    "In a June 2004demonstration, an ALONtm test pieces held up to both a .30 caliber Russian M-44 sniper rifle [...]"

    Never trust a journalist to get gun facts straight.

    The M44 is a carbine version of the Mosin-Nagant [], very short, easy to carry, but with nothing better than iron sights. It is about as far from a "sniper rifle" as anything you can see.

    It has the coolest integral bayonet, though.

    On the upside, the M-44 uses the same cartridge as the current Romanian "sniper" rifle, the PSL []. The M44 has a short barrel so a steel-cored 7.62x54R [] projectile won't reach the same sort of velocities as it would out of a PSL rifle but it should be a pretty effective test against the sort of "armor piercing" light arms that any terrorist not carrying an RPG [] would be likely to have handy.
  • by digitaldc ( 879047 ) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @07:13AM (#13815736)
    Scotty: Computer. Computer?

    [Bones hands him a mouse and he speaks into it]

    Scotty: Hello, computer.

    Dr. Nichols: Just use the keyboard.

    Scotty: Keyboard. How quaint.

    I see a multitude of uses for transparent aluminum including semi-transparent road signs, reinforced windows and cool computer cases. Scotty lives!
  • by TangoCharlie ( 113383 ) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @07:27AM (#13815787) Homepage Journal
    This stuff is transparent Aluminium, in the same way that "normal" glass is
    transparent Silicon. Indeed, using this criteria, we already had transparent
    Aluminium in the form of Saphire. Saphire is also rather hard and makes a good
    optical material. While the invention of a suitably hard and tough transparent
    material is obviously news-worthy it would be wise to steer clear of the same
    mistakes that sci-fi writers make when they don't understand the "sci" bit.

    However, going back to the Star Trek film in question, I always liked the way
    that Scotty was able to create a new material and presumably the method for making
    it on a tiny Apple Mac Plus! Was he using MacDraw I wonder?
  • Not quite correct (Score:4, Informative)

    by ViXX0r ( 188100 ) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @07:29AM (#13815795) Homepage
    Scotty didn't exchange the formula for a small run of transparent aluminum, it would have taken years for the plant to study the formula and tool up their factory to produce the stuff. He traded the formula for a large, thick sheet of plexiglass or similar that the company would have had on hand or actually be able to manufacture at that time.
  • Refractive index? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wowbagger ( 69688 ) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @07:54AM (#13815882) Homepage Journal
    I wonder what the refractive index of this material is? For those of us who look through tank windshield all day (figuratively speaking), if this material can be reduced in price and has a refractive index significantly greater than 1.66, then it would make our lenses much thinner, as well as being much more scratch resistant than polycarbonate.

    Given that sapphire has a refractive index over 1.75, this *could* be a great breakthrough - if Big Green starts to consume large quantities of this, then the amortized NRE will be greatly reduced.
  • by ari_j ( 90255 ) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @08:36AM (#13816114)
    Scotty didn't exchange the formula for a small run of transparent aluminum. The exchange was the formula for a run of plexiglass panels. You are hereby ordered to watch Star Trek IV three times before Sunday.
  • by Chuck_McDevitt ( 665265 ) on Tuesday October 18, 2005 @11:50AM (#13817761) Homepage
    Transparent Aliminum has been around for all our lifetimes: Sapphire = Aluminum Oxide. My watch has a sapphire crystal... Yours might too.

"An organization dries up if you don't challenge it with growth." -- Mark Shepherd, former President and CEO of Texas Instruments