The fourth installment of the original "Star Trek" movies is perhaps the most endearing to fans. The crew returns to modern-day Earth. Kirk, Spock and the rest of the gang ditch a Klingon Bird of Prey spacecraft in the San Francisco Bay after narrowly missing the Golden Gate Bridge while flying blind in a storm. You may remember the scene -- but how many of you remember Scotty introducing transparent aluminum for the first time?
In the flick, Scotty traded the formula matrix for transparent aluminum -- a huge engineering advancement -- for sheets of plexiglass in order to build a tank to transport the two humpback whales (George and Gracie) to the Earth of their time. The claim was that you'd be able to replace six-inch (14-centimeter) thick Plexiglas with one-inch (2.5-centimeter) thick see-through aluminum.
It may sound impossible, but there is such a thing as transparent aluminum armor or aluminum oxynitride (ALON) as it's more commonly known. ALON is a ceramic material that starts out as a powder before heat and pressure turn it into a crystalline form similar to glass. Once in the crystalline form, the material is strong enough to withstand bullets. Polishing the molded ALON strengthens the material even more. The Air Force has tested the material in hopes of replacing windows and canopies in its aircraft. Transparent aluminum armor is lighter and stronger than bulletproof glass. Less weight, stronger material -- what's not to like?