World's thinnest glass shatters records -- by accident

They're shattering records.

At just one molecule thick, researchers at Cornell and Germany's University of Ulm have discovered the world's thinnest sheet of glass -- by accident.


The unexpected discovery came after scientists notices "muck" on their graphene, a two-dimensional sheet of carbon atoms shaped in a chicken-wire crystal formation that they had been studying.

It turns out the smudge they thought they saw was actually a "pane" of glass so thin that its individual silicon and oxygen atoms are visible only via an electron microscope.

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"It's the first time that anyone has been able to see the arrangement of atoms in a glass," director of the Kavli Institute at Cornell for Nanoscale Science David A. Muller told the Cornell Chronicle. "This is the work that, when I look back at my career, I will be most proud of."

Besides making it into the Guinness Book of World Records, the discovery may lead to the creation of ultra-thin material that could improve the performance of processors in computers and smartphones.

The research was funded by the National Science Foundation through the Cornell Center for Materials Research.