Those wily folks at Corning, the company that among other things makes the scratch-resistant glass protecting your iPhone (thus rendering screen protection film superfluous) just announced a new variant that could qualify as the world’s first bacteria-snuffing glass.
Corning calls it the “first EPA-registered antimicrobial cover glass,” and it gets the job done by employing something called ionic silver, which has known antibacterial properties. The silver is integrated with the glass surface “for sustained activity,” says Corning, adding that it’s integrated with glass in a way that preserves all the [insert technical gobbledygook here] that make Gorilla Glass what it is.
Don’t confuse ionic silver with alternative medical (and pseudoscientific) remedies like colloidal silver. According to research published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, ionic silver actually does what’s being claimed here:
In conclusion, the results of the present study clearly show that the electrically generated silver ion solution exerts its antibacterial effect by inducing bacteria into a state of ABNC [active but nonculturable], in which the mechanisms required for the uptake and utilization of substrates leading to cell division were disrupted at the initial stage and caused the cells to undergo morphological changes and die at the later stage. These findings suggest that the use of the silver ion solution may have valuable applications in various fields, such as the manufacture of household appliances and medical devices.
Corning says its new antimicrobial Gorilla Glass “inhibits the growth of algae, mold, mildew, fungi, and bacteria,” and that it’s “effective for the lifetime of a device.” It doesn’t sound like it’ll rub off with routine, sustained use, in other words.
When can you buy it? Corning says it’s still being tested, but that it’ll be showcasing the material during CES (how you actively demonstrate a product’s antimicrobial properties, I couldn’t tell you). I’d like to know how germ-killing we’re talking, for starters, and what you have to do with the phone to effectively or sufficiently cleanse things — roll it in your hands like a bar of soap?
The latter may not be the goal at all: Corning adds a disclaimer at the end of its press statement that suggests the point may simply be to mitigate germ transfer with devices held by multiple persons.
Antimicrobial Corning Gorilla Glass is formulated to help keep touch surfaces clean of bacteria and microbes. Antimicrobial protection is limited to the product itself, and neither Corning nor Steelcase makes any direct or implied health claims about the antimicrobial properties of the product.