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Can glass bridges really shatter under our feet?

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Until today, this type of bridge was considered very reliable. Nevertheless, an incident recent raised questions in China. A tourist found himself in the middle of a shipwreck about 100 meters above the ground after several plates of a glass bridge shattered under his feet.

An unprecedented incident

What if glass bridges weren’t as reliable as they thought? If so, it could be a “disaster” especially for the longest glass bridge in the world. Located in the Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon in Hunan Province (China), it is a real tourist attraction with its 430 m long and 6 m wide perched 300 m high.

As revealed by the Chinese news agency Xinhua on May 8, 2021, an incident, fortunately without regrettable consequences, took place on another glass bridge, namely that of the city of Longjing (Jilin province) located at a height of one hundred meters. In the middle of the day, winds reaching maximum speed of 150 km / h took away several glass plates from the bridge. A tourist was suddenly trapped, but survived by hanging onto the frame of the building. Rescued by police, firefighters and forest rangers, the man was eventually taken to hospital for a mental and physical health check.

Despite the fact that the emergency services did not deplore any victims, many Internet users reacted online, in particular on the social network Weibo. Some wondered about a possible laxity with regard to the maintenance of the bridge and others said they did not want to walk on this kind of too dangerous building. Do we really need fear future dramas at the level of the glass bridges?

Credits: capture YouTube / Water Lingling

Minimal risk

In an article published on May 11, the magazine NewScientist asked Paul Bingham. And this British specialist in materials physics is categorical: he feels capable of crossing any glass bridge. This is obviously a very unique way of asserting that the risks are minimal. However, the expert recalls that the design teams for the other glass bridges must be extra vigilant.

According to him, glass is fragile in two points. Indeed, it is crumbly and devoid of crystals. In other words, any fault is practically impossible to stop. In general, this is avoided by coupling it to a polymer. Thus, the presence of several layers means that if one of them gives way, the plate still remains in place. In addition, the glass of the decks is also reinforced with potassium nitrate thanks to a method using the principle of thermal shock.

The expert considers that the glass of the bridges has very unlikely to break, unless you decide to hit it extremely hard. He felt it was like ” trying to fill a washing machine with new clothes when it is already full. We can achieve this, but it creates a field of constraints that must be struck very hard if we want to succeed in breaking it. “. For him, the incident at the Longjing Bridge is likely to be an exception for a very long time to come. It’s lucky when you know that these bridges are more and more popular, especially in China where around sixty were under construction in 2016.


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