Breaking Glass Under a Microscope. As a crack propagates through glass, nanometer-scale regions of damage start small, grow, and coalesce to advance the crack tip. This process was previously thought to apply only to ductile fracture, which occurs in metals. Image Credit: Phys. Rev. Lett. 075504 (2003).
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If you dropped a wineglass, you'd expect it to shatter, not skitter across the floor like a silver goblet would. But recent research suggests that glass does in fact break like a metal--at least at the nanometer scale. The research may help explain some of the fracture properties of glass, and may someday lead to stronger versions of the material.