Friday, September 5, 2014

Sapphire in Your iPhone

The iPhone 6 is said to have a sapphire screen

I live in the land of computers, better known as the Silicon Valley. The big news in this morning’s paper is how Apple is researching the possibility of using sapphire for their phone screen. According to the article, sapphire is an extremely hard mineral, second only to diamond. In its natural state it is clear, which makes it perfect for an iPhone screen. This hard plus clear material can potentially make a better iPhone screen that is more resistant to cracking and has a more sensitive touch screen.


I prefer my sapphires in rings, Gabrielle Bruni White Sapphire Ring
The real trick here is how to come up with so much sapphire. There are tons of iPhones on the market and when people starting upgrading to the iPhone 6 it can be daunting coming up with enough sapphire to cover all those screens. Apple has signed a deal with a specialized manufacturer to grow synthetic sapphire in a plant in Mesa, Arizona. Apparently, this plant will manufacture more sapphire than all the other synthetic sapphire plants in the world combined, that’s a lot of sapphire.

In order to make synthetic sapphire you need a sapphire seed, approximately the size of a hockey puck which is then placed into a molybdenum crucible. Next you add raw crystalline aluminum oxide with a similar chemical makeup as sapphire gems. You can also add leftover sapphires from previous runs. The mixture is heated to more than 3,800 degrees then undergoes various cooling cycles for about 16 to 17 days. The end result is a 250 pound cylindrical piece of industrial sapphire called a boule.


This large block of sapphire can be laser cut into any shape that you desire. An iPhone 5 screen is approximately .02 inches thick so it is easy to estimate that the new iPhone 6 will be similar. While this process produces a synthetic sapphire, I would love to see a 250 pound boule; it’s still a sapphire after all. I’m not sure how I feel about this use of sapphire; there are so many jewelry applications for 250 pounds of sapphire. In the end I guess I can always tell people I upgraded my phone because the screen is made of sapphire, a girl has to have her gems.

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