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What is Glass? Types, Properties and Uses

Updated on February 7, 2017
Glass jars
Glass jars | Source

Glas is neither a liquid nor a solid. It is a transparent amorphous solid that is made from sand. You can see different forms of glass in windows, bulbs, lenses, drinking glasses, storage bottles, mirrors, laboratory and medical equipment.

Glass is easy to manufacture and shape. It is chemically inert and resistant to heat. It is an eco-friendly material that can be recycled many times without losing its original properties.

What is glass?

Gass is neither a liquid nor a solid. It falls in the range between a liquid and a solid. A solid has a highly organized structure, but liquids and glass do not have the rigid structure that a solid has.

During the manufacturing process, the molten mixture containing silica is quickly cooled below its melting point to become a supercooled liquid (a supercooled liquid is an intermediate stage between the state of a liquid and a gas.)

When the supercooled liquid is cooled further, it becomes an amorphous solid that has a structure that is not as rigid as a solid but it has a structure that is more organized than a liquid.

How is glass made?

Glass is manufactured by heating recycled glass, sodium carbonate (soda ash) and calcium carbonate (limestone) in a furnace. This glass is also known as soda-lime-silica glass.

The soda-lime-silica glass is melted and poured into molds to make bottles, glasses, jars. To make flat glass sheets for windows, the molten glass is poured into a big tank that has molten tin metal.

A ball of molten glass is wrapped around an open pipe and then slowly rotated. Hot air is blown through the pipe, and the molten glass ball blows up like a balloon and is skilfully manipulated to produce decorative glass containers. Glass makers add chemicals to the glass to make decorative objects colorful.

Stained Glass Window
Stained Glass Window | Source

Properties of Glass

The properties of glass depend upon the substances that are added while manufacturing the glass. The substances that are added to alter the properties of glass are mostly in the form of oxides.

  • Lead is added to enhance the brilliance and weight of glass
  • Boron for thermal and electrical resistance
  • Barium to increase the refractive index
  • Cerium to absorb infrared rays
  • Metallic oxides to give color

It is an excellent material for making household items such as glass, plates, storage bottles because glass is chemically inert and does not react with the eatables stored in glass jars.

Types of Glass & Uses

Laminated

Laminated Glass is made by fusing alternate layers of flat glass and plastic. When laminated glass breaks due to heavy impact, the glass that receives the impact breaks but the plastic layer on the inside hold the glass pieces together and prevent them from flying in all directions.

This type of glass is used in making automobile windshields. If the windshield breaks due to an accident, the laminated glass will prevent the glass pieces from flying inside the vehicle and prevent the passengers from injury.

Fiber Glass
Fiber Glass | Source

Fiberglass

Fiberglass is made of fine, solid rods of glass, each one of these rods measures to about less than one-twentieth of the width of a human hair.

It is used to make wool-like fibers that serve as heat insulation material. This glass can also be used like wool or cotton fibers to make glass yarn, tape, cloth, and mats. It is also used for electrical insulation, chemical filtration and to make firefighter suits.

Fiberglass is combined with plastic and used in the manufacture of airplane wings, body parts of automobiles and boat hulls.

Bulletproof

Bulletproof Glass is a thick multilayer of laminated glass that can stop heavy-caliber bullets. It shatters on impact, but the plastic layers of this glass hold the glass fragments together. This type of glass is also used in the manufacture of bank teller windows and to make windshields for military tanks and aircraft.

Tempered

Tempered Glass is stronger than laminated glass. It is a single sheet of glass and does not have several layers similar to the laminated glass. It is used for glass doors, side and rear windows of automobiles, and basketball backboards. This glass is hard to break but when it does it shatters into many fragments.

Foam

Foam Glass is filled with many tiny cells of gas. Each cell is sealed off from the other by a thin glass wall. It is light and floats on water. It is used as an insulator in buildings, steam pipes and in chemical equipment.

Heat Resistant

Heat Resistant glass is high in silica and contains boric acid. This glass expands slightly when heated and does not crack at high temperatures. Due to the heat-resistant property, this type of glass is used in the manufacture of cookware, household, laboratory and industrial equipment. It is also used in the manufacture of electric bulbs and television sets.

Heat Reflective

Heat Reflective Glass has two panes of glass separated by a layer of argon gas that helps to improve insulation. This type of glass is used to make windows of apartments and other buildings. It helps to keep your home warm during winter and cool during summer and helps to reduce the electricity bill.

Glass Fibers
Glass Fibers | Source

Other Types of Glass

Glass Optical Fibers are used to transmit information in the form of pulses of light. These fibers are extremely thin and are used to transmit telephone, television signals and digital data over long distances.

Glass Ceramics can withstand very high temperatures and can take a sudden change in temperatures without breaking and is resistant to chemical erosion. This type of glass is used in cookware, turbine engines, electronic equipment and nose cones of guided missiles.

Stained Glass is made by adding chemical compounds to the molten glass. Each compound gives a different color to the glass depending upon the chemical nature. It is used to make beautiful windows and other decorative objects.

Crystal Glass is a fine quality glass. It is made from silica, lead oxide, soda, or potash. It is used to make wine glasses and other decorative ornaments.

Why glass is an eco-friendly material?

Glass is an eco-friendly material because -

  1. Glass can be recycled many times without the loss of its original properties.
  2. Manufacture of new glass from glass that has been recycled will need less energy when compared to new glass made using raw materials.
  3. Recycling glass reduces the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere.

Glass Formed Due to Forces of Nature

When the soil is rich in silica and the conditions are ideal, forces of nature create glass.

  1. Fulgurite Glass forms when cloud to ground lightning occurs
  2. Obsidian Glass is a result of the volcanic activity
  3. Meteoritic Glass or Tektite glass forms due to the collision of a meteorite with the surface of the earth

In 1945, the first nuclear bomb that was equivalent to 18,000 tons of TNT was detonated in the New Mexico desert. The explosion resulted in a crater that was 800 yards in diameter, glazed with dull-grey silica glass.

Glass is an eco-friendly material that can be recycled and reused many times. It is chemically inert and can be safely used to manufacture cookware and dinnerware. It is versatile, and the properties of glass can be manipulated to manufacture products across many applications.

References

http://www.edu-observatory.org/physics-faq/General/Glass/glass.html

http://www.explainthatstuff.com/glass.html

http://www.infoplease.com/encyclopedia/society/glass-composition-properties-glass.html

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/fact-fiction-glass-liquid/

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    • Vellur profile image
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      Nithya Venkat 7 months ago from Dubai

      Nell Rose thank you for your visit. It must have been a great experience to see how glass is being made. Colored glass vases look so beautiful, I love them.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 7 months ago from England

      I loved reading this, as I saw the process when I was in the Isle of Wight, and Island off England a couple of years ago. Boy was that hot in there! lol! the fans were going, people were drinking tons of water, and the guys making the glass looked cool as cucumbers! how I do not know! but it was great fun! and then we went into the adjoining shop and bought some colored glass vases and statues!

    • Vellur profile image
      Author

      Nithya Venkat 7 months ago from Dubai

      Shyron E Shenko thank you for your visit and comments, much appreciated.

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 7 months ago from Texas

      Nihya, thank you for this information, some of it I knew some I did not.

      Glass is so important, most people never think of it, all dishes/fiber optics (FIOS)/mirrors and telescopes would be forgotten. Glass is used in so many things besides the major use "windows."

      Thank you for enlightening through the looking glass.

      Blessings my friend.

    • Vellur profile image
      Author

      Nithya Venkat 8 months ago from Dubai

      teaches12345 glass is a great choice, thank you for your visit and comment.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 8 months ago

      We prefer drinking from glass because it is healthier for your body. I am glad to know it is eco-friendly for the environment. Didn't know it could be recycled without losing its properties time after time.

    • Vellur profile image
      Author

      Nithya Venkat 8 months ago from Dubai

      FlourishAnyway I am so glad you found this article interesting and informative. It is a good and safe idea to carry a tool to break out of the glass.

    • Vellur profile image
      Author

      Nithya Venkat 8 months ago from Dubai

      MsDora thank you for taking the time to read and am glad you learned more about glass through this hub.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 8 months ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks for all this information on types of glass. I appreciate the manufacturing process of the windshield glass. We learn much from your article. Thanks.

    • Vellur profile image
      Author

      Nithya Venkat 8 months ago from Dubai

      AliciaC thank you for your visit and comment, I totally agree grass is impressive for many reasons.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 8 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you for sharing so many interesting facts about the different types of glass, Vellur. Glass is a very impressive material.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 8 months ago from USA

      Well no wonder automobile glass is so hard to break! You see people using sledgehammers on the news to no avail. It worried me so much that I might be trapped in my car in water or something and unable to get out that I bought a special tool to carry in each vehicle that can break auto glass. This was a terrific hub -- very informative and I learned interesting information I never thought to ask.

    • Vellur profile image
      Author

      Nithya Venkat 8 months ago from Dubai

      ChitrangadaSharan thank you for your appreciation and comment. I hope students find this article useful.

    • Vellur profile image
      Author

      Nithya Venkat 8 months ago from Dubai

      billybuc thank you for your visit and am happy you found this article interesting.

    • Vellur profile image
      Author

      Nithya Venkat 8 months ago from Dubai

      always exploring thank you, the door must have been beautiful. Stained glass doors are vibrant and welcoming.

    • Vellur profile image
      Author

      Nithya Venkat 8 months ago from Dubai

      Dear Nellienna thank you for your visit and appreciation. The design that you made must have been beautiful, wish you had taken a photo. I will read about the artist and thank you for the introduction.

    • Vellur profile image
      Author

      Nithya Venkat 8 months ago from Dubai

      Genna East thank you, handcrafted glass is amazing. Stained glass artwork is beautiful, and the way the artisans handle it so skilfully is great to watch.

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 8 months ago from Massachusetts, USA

      I always like learning new things, and this article was so interesting. I never knew how glass was made aside from the elements of sand that you mentioned, and watching glass blowers form the liquid into beautiful shapes with an expert touch and artistic eye. These artisans make it look so easy. I had no idea there were so many different types of glass.

    • Nellieanna profile image

      Nellieanna Hay 8 months ago from TEXAS

      Dear Vellur! What a fascinating hub! So much information and education, as well as the sense of your enthusiasm for the subject! Thank you for sharing it! I’ve had the pleasure of seeing glass made at a little out-of-the-way studio in a small Texas town. I’ve been fascinated ever since.

      I’ve always wanted to try my hand at stained glass. Sigh. Life isn’t long enough for all I’d love to to try! A relative had a house in Cincinnati years earlier with some stained glass windows and his daughter went to the site when the house was being torn down and acquired the windows. She gave her dad 2 of them and he hung them in the bedroom windows. So I copied the design and scaled it up to king-sized bed size and made an exact repllca of the window design into a huge pieced and quilted bedspread to match. That was as close as I have gotten to making stained glass. haha Wish I’d kept a picture of that! It was quite a project!

      I wrote a hub a good while ago about a glass artist, Oiva Toikka. A kinswoman had collected a number of his pieces so I put an Oiva Toikka glass piece on my Christmas wish list the last year my beloved George's life and he asked what I’d like to receive - and he gave me one. It's doubly a treasure.

      I just know you’d appreciate this artist’s work so, if I may, here’s my introduction to him:

      https://hubpages.com/art/Oiva-Toikka

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 8 months ago from Southern Illinois

      The video was really interesting as well as your article. Before I downsized to a smaller house, I had a stained glass door that was beautiful. Thanks for sharing..

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 8 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Well I hate to admit it, but I had no idea how glass was made, so thanks for this very informative article.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 8 months ago from New Delhi, India

      What an impressive and well researched article about glass!

      You remind me of my science lessons of school. Really I didn't know so many details about Glass. This would be helpful to many especially young students.

      Thanks for the education!