Glass is a non-crystalline amorphous solid that is often transparent
and has widespread practical, technological, and decorative usage in,
for example, window panes, tableware, and optoelectronics. The most
familiar, and historically the oldest, types of glass are "silicate
glasses" based on the chemical compound silica (silicon dioxide, or
quartz), the primary constituent of sand. The term glass, in popular
usage, is often used to refer only to this type of material, which is
familiar from use as window glass and in glass bottles. Of the many
silica-based glasses that exist, ordinary glazing and container glass
is formed from a specific type called soda-lime glass, composed of
approximately 75% silicon dioxide (SiO2), sodium oxide (Na2O) from
sodium carbonate (Na2CO3), calcium oxide, also called lime (CaO), and
several minor additives.
Many applications of silicate glasses derive from their optical
transparency, giving rise to their primary use as window panes. Glass
will transmit, reflect and refract light; these qualities can be
enhanced by cutting and polishing to make optical lenses, prisms, fine
glassware, and optical fibers for high speed data transmission by
Glass can be coloured by adding metallic salts, and can also be
painted and printed with vitreous enamels. These qualities have led to
the extensive use of glass in the manufacture of art objects and in
particular, stained glass windows. Although brittle, silicate glass is
extremely durable, and many examples of glass fragments exist from
early glass-making cultures. Because glass can be formed or moulded
into any shape, it has been traditionally used for vessels: bowls,
vases, bottles, jars and drinking glasses. In its most solid forms it
has also been used for paperweights, marbles, and beads. When extruded
as glass fiber and matted as glass wool in a way to trap air, it
becomes a thermal insulating material, and when these glass fibers are
embedded into an organic polymer plastic, they are a key structural
reinforcement part of the composite material fiberglass. Some objects
historically were so commonly made of silicate glass that they are
simply called by the name of the material, such as drinking glasses
Scientifically, the term "glass" is often defined in a broader sense,
encompassing every solid that possesses a non-crystalline (that is,
amorphous) structure at the atomic scale and that exhibits a glass
transition when heated towards the liquid state. Porcelains and many
polymer thermoplastics familiar from everyday use are glasses. These
sorts of glasses can be made of quite different kinds of materials
than silica: metallic alloys, ionic melts, aqueous solutions,
molecular liquids, and polymers. For many applications, like glass
bottles or eyewear, polymer glasses (acrylic glass, polycarbonate or
polyethylene terephthalate) are a lighter alternative than traditional
1 Silicate glass
2 Physical properties
2.1 Optical properties
2.2 Other properties
3 Contemporary production
4 History of silicate glass
4.1 Chronology of advances in architectural glass
5 Other types
5.2 Network glasses
5.5 Aqueous solutions
5.6 Molecular liquids
5.8 Colloidal glasses
6.1 Formation from a supercooled liquid
6.2 Behavior of antique glass
8 See also
10 External links
Silica (SiO2) is a common fundamental constituent of glass. In
nature, vitrification of quartz occurs when lightning strikes sand,
forming hollow, branching rootlike structures called fulgurites.
Fused quartz is a glass made from chemically-pure silica. It has
excellent resistance to thermal shock, being able to survive immersion
in water while red hot. However, its high melting temperature
(1723 °C) and viscosity make it difficult to work with.
Normally, other substances are added to simplify processing. One is
sodium carbonate (Na2CO3, "soda"), which lowers the glass-transition
temperature. The soda makes the glass water-soluble, which is usually
undesirable, so lime (CaO, calcium oxide, generally obtained from
limestone), some magnesium oxide (MgO) and aluminium oxide (Al2O3) are
added to provide for a better chemical durability. The resulting glass
contains about 70 to 74% silica by weight and is called a soda-lime
glass. Soda-lime glasses account for about 90% of manufactured
Most common glass contains other ingredients to change its properties.
Lead glass or flint glass is more "brilliant" because the increased
refractive index causes noticeably more specular reflection and
increased optical dispersion. Adding barium also increases the
Thorium oxide gives glass a high refractive index
and low dispersion and was formerly used in producing high-quality
lenses, but due to its radioactivity has been replaced by lanthanum
oxide in modern eyeglasses. Iron can be incorporated into glass to
absorb infrared radiation, for example in heat-absorbing filters for
movie projectors, while cerium(IV) oxide can be used for glass that
absorbs ultraviolet wavelengths.
The following is a list of the more common types of silicate glasses
and their ingredients, properties, and applications:
Fused quartz, also called fused-silica glass, vitreous-silica
glass: silica (SiO2) in vitreous, or glass, form (i.e., its molecules
are disordered and random, without crystalline structure). It has very
low thermal expansion, is very hard, and resists high temperatures
(1000–1500 °C). It is also the most resistant against
weathering (caused in other glasses by alkali ions leaching out of the
glass, while staining it).
Fused quartz is used for high-temperature
applications such as furnace tubes, lighting tubes, melting crucibles,
Soda-lime-silica glass, window glass: silica + sodium oxide (Na2O)
+ lime (CaO) + magnesia (MgO) + alumina (Al2O3). Is
transparent, easily formed and most suitable for window glass (see
flat glass). It has a high thermal expansion and poor resistance
to heat (500–600 °C). It is used for windows, some
low-temperature incandescent light bulbs, and tableware. Container
glass is a soda-lime glass that is a slight variation on flat glass,
which uses more alumina and calcium, and less sodium and magnesium,
which are more water-soluble. This makes it less susceptible to water
Sodium borosilicate glass, Pyrex: silica + boron trioxide (B2O3) +
soda (Na2O) + alumina (Al2O3). Stands heat expansion much better
than window glass. Used for chemical glassware, cooking glass, car
head lamps, etc. Borosilicate glasses (e.g. Pyrex, Duran) have as main
constituents silica and boron trioxide. They have fairly low
coefficients of thermal expansion (7740
Pyrex CTE is
3.25×10−6/°C as compared to about 9×10−6/°C for a typical
soda-lime glass), making them more dimensionally stable. The lower
coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE) also makes them less subject to
stress caused by thermal expansion, thus less vulnerable to cracking
from thermal shock. They are commonly used for reagent bottles,
optical components and household cookware.
Lead-oxide glass, crystal glass, lead glass: silica + lead
oxide (PbO) + potassium oxide (K2O) + soda (Na2O) + zinc oxide (ZnO) +
alumina. Because of its high density (resulting in a high electron
density), it has a high refractive index, making the look of glassware
more brilliant (called "crystal", though of course it is a glass
and not a crystal). It also has a high elasticity, making glassware
"ring". It is also more workable in the factory, but cannot stand
heating very well. This kind of glass is also more fragile than
other glasses and is easier to cut.
Aluminosilicate glass: silica + alumina + lime + magnesia + barium
oxide (BaO) + boric oxide (B2O3). Extensively used for
fiberglass, used for making glass-reinforced plastics (boats,
fishing rods, etc.) and for halogen bulb glass. Aluminosilicate
glasses are also resistant to weathering and water erosion.
Germanium-oxide glass: alumina + germanium dioxide (GeO2). Extremely
clear glass, used for fiber-optic waveguides in communication
networks. Light loses only 5% of its intensity through 1 km
of glass fiber.
Another common glass ingredient is crushed alkali glass or 'cullet'
ready for recycled glass. The recycled glass saves on raw materials
and energy. Impurities in the cullet can lead to product and equipment
failure. Fining agents such as sodium sulfate, sodium chloride, or
antimony oxide may be added to reduce the number of air bubbles in the
Glass batch calculation is the method by which the
correct raw material mixture is determined to achieve the desired
Moldavite, a natural glass formed by meteorite impact, from Besednice,
Quartz sand (silica) is the main raw material in commercial glass
Trinitite, a glass made by the Trinity nuclear-weapon test
Lead glass a glass made by adding lead oxide to glass
A borosilicate glass guitar slide
See also: List of physical properties of glass
Glass is in widespread use largely due to the production of glass
compositions that are transparent to visible light. In contrast,
polycrystalline materials do not generally transmit visible light.
The individual crystallites may be transparent, but their facets
(grain boundaries) reflect or scatter light resulting in diffuse
Glass does not contain the internal subdivisions
associated with grain boundaries in polycrystals and hence does not
scatter light in the same manner as a polycrystalline material. The
surface of a glass is often smooth since during glass formation the
molecules of the supercooled liquid are not forced to dispose in rigid
crystal geometries and can follow surface tension, which imposes a
microscopically smooth surface. These properties, which give glass its
clearness, can be retained even if glass is partially
Glass has the ability to refract, reflect, and transmit light
following geometrical optics, without scattering it (due to the
absence of grain boundaries). It is used in the manufacture of
lenses and windows. Common glass has a refraction index around
1.5. This may be modified by adding low-density materials such
as boron, which lowers the index of refraction (see crown glass),
or increased (to as much as 1.8) with high-density materials such as
(classically) lead oxide (see flint glass and lead glass), or in
modern uses, less toxic oxides of zirconium, titanium, or barium.
These high-index glasses (inaccurately known as "crystal" when used in
glass vessels) cause more chromatic dispersion of light, and are
prized for their diamond-like optical properties.
According to Fresnel equations, the reflectivity of a sheet of glass
is about 4% per surface (at normal incidence in air), and the
transmissivity of one element (two surfaces) is about 90%. Glass
with high germanium oxide content also finds application in
optoelectronics—e.g., for light-transmitting optical fibers.
Simple optical device: the magnifying glass
Strand of optical glass fiber
In the process of manufacture, silicate glass can be poured, formed,
extruded and molded into forms ranging from flat sheets to highly
intricate shapes. The finished product is brittle and will
fracture, unless laminated or specially treated, but is extremely
durable under most conditions. It erodes very slowly and can
mostly withstand the action of water. It is mostly resistant to
chemical attack, does not react with foods, and is an ideal
material for the manufacture of containers for foodstuffs and most
Glass is also a fairly inert substance.
Corrosion of glasses
Although glass is generally corrosion-resistant and more corrosion
resistant than other materials, it still can be corroded. The
materials that make up a particular glass composition has an effect on
how quickly the glass corrodes. A glass containing a high
proportion of alkalis or alkali earths is less corrosion-resistant
than other kinds of glasses.
Glass flakes have applications as anti-corrosive coating.
Main article: Strength of glass
Glass typically has a tensile strength of 7 megapascals
(1,000 psi), however theoretically it can have a strength of
17 gigapascals (2,500,000 psi) due to glass's strong chemical
bonds. Several factors such as imperfections like scratches and
bubbles and the glass's chemical composition impact the tensile
strength of glass. Several processes such as toughening can
increase the strength of glass.
Glass production, Float glass, Flat glass,
Glassblowing, and Glazier
Following the glass batch preparation and mixing, the raw materials
are transported to the furnace.
Soda-lime glass for mass production is
melted in gas fired units. Smaller scale furnaces for specialty
glasses include electric melters, pot furnaces, and day tanks.
After melting, homogenization and refining (removal of bubbles), the
glass is formed.
Flat glass for windows and similar applications is
formed by the float glass process, developed between 1953 and 1957 by
Alastair Pilkington and Kenneth Bickerstaff of the UK's Pilkington
Brothers, who created a continuous ribbon of glass using a molten tin
bath on which the molten glass flows unhindered under the influence of
gravity. The top surface of the glass is subjected to nitrogen under
pressure to obtain a polished finish.
Container glass for common
bottles and jars is formed by blowing and pressing methods. This
glass is often slightly modified chemically (with more alumina and
calcium oxide) for greater water resistance. Further glass forming
techniques are summarized in the table
Glass forming techniques.
Once the desired form is obtained, glass is usually annealed for the
removal of stresses and to increase the glass's hardness and
durability. Surface treatments, coatings or lamination may follow
to improve the chemical durability (glass container coatings, glass
container internal treatment), strength (toughened glass, bulletproof
glass, windshields), or optical properties (insulated glazing,
anti-reflective coating).
Impurities give the glass its color
Transparent and opaque examples
Glass can be blown into an infinite number of shapes
Glass coloring and color marking
Some of the many color possibilities of glass
Color in glass may be obtained by addition of electrically charged
ions (or color centers) that are homogeneously distributed, and by
precipitation of finely dispersed particles (such as in photochromic
glasses). Ordinary soda-lime glass appears colorless to the naked
eye when it is thin, although iron(II) oxide (FeO) impurities of up to
0.1 wt% produce a green tint, which can be viewed in thick pieces
or with the aid of scientific instruments. Further FeO and
chromium(III) oxide (Cr2O3) additions may be used for the production
of green bottles. Sulfur, together with carbon and iron salts, is used
to form iron polysulfides and produce amber glass ranging from
yellowish to almost black. A glass melt can also acquire an amber
color from a reducing combustion atmosphere.
Manganese dioxide can
be added in small amounts to remove the green tint given by iron(II)
Art glass and studio glass pieces are colored using closely
guarded recipes that involve specific combinations of metal oxides,
melting temperatures and "cook" times. Most colored glass used in the
art market is manufactured in volume by vendors who serve this market,
although there are some glassmakers with the ability to make their own
color from raw materials.
History of silicate glass
Main article: History of glass
See also: Architectural glass, Stained glass,
Glass art, Art glass,
and Studio glass
Bohemian flashed and engraved ruby glass (19th-century)
Wine goblet, mid-19th century.
Qajar dynasty. Brooklyn Museum.
Roman cage cup from the 4th century CE
Studio glass. Multiple colors within a single object increase the
difficulty of production, as glasses of different colors have
different chemical and physical properties when molten.
Naturally occurring glass, especially the volcanic glass obsidian, was
used by many
Stone Age societies across the globe for the production
of sharp cutting tools and, due to its limited source areas, was
extensively traded. But in general, archaeological evidence suggests
that the first true glass was made in coastal north Syria, Mesopotamia
or ancient Egypt. The earliest known glass objects, of the mid
third millennium BCE, were beads, perhaps initially created as
accidental by-products of metal-working (slags) or during the
production of faience, a pre-glass vitreous material made by a process
similar to glazing.
Glass remained a luxury material, and the disasters that overtook Late
Bronze Age civilizations seem to have brought glass-making to a halt.
Indigenous development of glass technology in
South Asia may have
begun in 1730 BCE. In ancient China, though, glassmaking seems to
have a late start, compared to ceramics and metal work. The term glass
developed in the late Roman Empire. It was in the Roman glassmaking
center at Trier, now in modern Germany, that the late-Latin term
glesum originated, probably from a Germanic word for a transparent,
Glass objects have been recovered across the
Roman Empire in domestic, funerary, and industrial
contexts. Examples of
Roman glass have been found outside of the
Roman Empire in China, the Baltics, the
Middle East and
Glass was used extensively during the Middle Ages. Anglo-Saxon glass
has been found across
England during archaeological excavations of
both settlement and cemetery sites.
Glass in the Anglo-Saxon
period was used in the manufacture of a range of objects including
vessels, windows, beads, and was also used in jewelry.
From the 10th-century onwards, glass was employed in stained glass
windows of churches and cathedrals, with famous examples at Chartres
Cathedral and the Basilica of Saint Denis. By the 14th-century,
architects were designing buildings with walls of stained glass such
as Sainte-Chapelle, Paris, (1203–1248) and the East end of
Stained glass had a major revival with
Gothic Revival architecture
Gothic Revival architecture in the 19th century. With the
Renaissance, and a change in architectural style, the use of large
stained glass windows became less prevalent. The use of domestic
stained glass increased until most substantial houses had glass
windows. These were initially small panes leaded together, but with
the changes in technology, glass could be manufactured relatively
cheaply in increasingly larger sheets. This led to larger window
panes, and, in the 20th-century, to much larger windows in ordinary
domestic and commercial buildings.
In the 20th century, new types of glass such as laminated glass,
reinforced glass and glass bricks increased the use of glass as a
building material and resulted in new applications of glass.
Multi-story buildings are frequently constructed with curtain walls
made almost entirely of glass. Similarly, laminated glass has been
widely applied to vehicles for windscreens. Optical glass for
spectacles has been used since the Middle Ages. The production of
lenses has become increasingly proficient, aiding astronomers as
well as having other application in medicine and science.
also employed as the aperture cover in many solar energy
From the 19th century, there was a revival in many ancient
glass-making techniques including cameo glass, achieved for the first
time since the
Roman Empire and initially mostly used for pieces in a
neo-classical style. The
Art Nouveau movement made great use of
glass, with René Lalique, Émile Gallé, and Daum of Nancy
producing colored vases and similar pieces, often in cameo glass, and
also using luster techniques.
Louis Comfort Tiffany
Louis Comfort Tiffany in America
specialized in stained glass, both secular and religious, and his
famous lamps. The early 20th-century saw the large-scale factory
production of glass art by firms such as Waterford and Lalique. From
about 1960 onwards, there have been an increasing number of small
studios hand-producing glass artworks, and glass artists began to
class themselves as in effect sculptors working in glass, and their
works as part fine arts.
In the 21st century, scientists observe the properties of ancient
stained glass windows, in which suspended nanoparticles prevent UV
light from causing chemical reactions that change image colors, are
developing photographic techniques that use similar stained glass to
capture true color images of
Mars for the 2019
Chronology of advances in architectural glass
1226: "Broad Sheet" first produced in Sussex.
1330: "Crown glass" for art work and vessels first produced in Rouen,
France. "Broad Sheet" also produced. Both were also supplied for
1500s: A method of making mirrors out of plate glass was developed by
Venetian glassmakers on the island of Murano, who covered the back of
the glass with a mercury-tin amalgam, obtaining near-perfect and
1620s: "Blown plate" first produced in London. Used for mirrors
and coach plates.
1678: "Crown glass" first produced in London. This process
dominated until the 19th century.
1843: An early form of "float glass" invented by Henry Bessemer,
pouring glass onto liquid tin. Expensive and not a commercial success.
Tempered glass is developed by Francois Barthelemy Alfred Royer
de la Bastie (1830–1901) of Paris,
France by quenching almost molten
glass in a heated bath of oil or grease.
1888: Machine-rolled glass introduced, allowing patterns.
1898: Wired-cast glass first commercially produced by Pilkington
for use where safety or security was an issue.
Float glass launched in UK. Invented by Sir Alastair
Mouth-blown window-glass in
Sweden Kosta Glasbruk, (1742) with a
pontil mark from the glassblower's pipe
A building in Canterbury, England, which displays its long history in
different building styles and glazing of every century from the 16th
to the 20th included.
Windows in the choir of the Basilica of Saint Denis, one of the
earliest uses of extensive areas of glass. (early 13th-century
architecture with restored glass of the 19th century)
"Hardwick Hall, more glass than wall". (late 16th century)
Windows at Österreichische Postsparkasse, Vienna, (early 20th
Westin Bonaventure Hotel, USA, show the extensive use of glass as a
building material in the 20th–21st centuries
New chemical glass compositions or new treatment techniques can be
initially investigated in small-scale laboratory experiments. The raw
materials for laboratory-scale glass melts are often different from
those used in mass production because the cost factor has a low
priority. In the laboratory mostly pure chemicals are used. Care must
be taken that the raw materials have not reacted with moisture or
other chemicals in the environment (such as alkali or alkaline earth
metal oxides and hydroxides, or boron oxide), or that the impurities
are quantified (loss on ignition). Evaporation losses during
glass melting should be considered during the selection of the raw
materials, e.g., sodium selenite may be preferred over easily
evaporating SeO2. Also, more readily reacting raw materials may be
preferred over relatively inert ones, such as Al(OH)3 over Al2O3.
Usually, the melts are carried out in platinum crucibles to reduce
contamination from the crucible material.
Glass homogeneity is
achieved by homogenizing the raw materials mixture (glass batch), by
stirring the melt, and by crushing and re-melting the first melt. The
obtained glass is usually annealed to prevent breakage during
To make glass from materials with poor glass forming tendencies, novel
techniques are used to increase cooling rate, or reduce crystal
nucleation triggers. Examples of these techniques include aerodynamic
levitation (cooling the melt whilst it floats on a gas stream), splat
quenching (pressing the melt between two metal anvils) and roller
quenching (pouring the melt through rollers).
Some glass fibers
Main article: Fiberglass
Glass wool and Fiber-reinforced plastic
Fiberglass (also called glass-reinforced-plastic) is a
composite material made up of glass fibers (also called
fiberglass or glass friller) embedded in a plastic
resin. It is made by melting glass and stretching the glass
into fibers. These fibers are woven together into a cloth and left to
set in a plastic resin.
Fiberglass filaments are made through a pultrusion process in which
the raw materials (sand, limestone, kaolin clay, fluorspar,
colemanite, dolomite and other minerals) are melted in a large furnace
into a liquid which is extruded through very small orifices (5–25
micrometres in diameter if the glass is
E-glass and 9 micrometers if
the glass is S-glass).
Fiberglass has the properties of being lightweight and corrosion
Fiberglass is also a good insulator,
allowing it to be used to insulate buildings. Most fiberglasses
are not alkali resistant.
Fiberglass also has the property of
becoming stronger as the glass ages.
Chalcogenide glass form the basis of rewritable CD and
DVD solid-state memory technology.
Some types of glass that do not include silica as a major constituent
may have physico-chemical properties useful for their application in
fiber optics and other specialized technical applications. These
include fluoride glass, aluminate and aluminosilicate glass, phosphate
glass, borate glass, and chalcogenide glass.
There are three classes of components for oxide glass: network
formers, intermediates, and modifiers. The network formers
(silicon, boron, germanium) form a highly cross-linked network of
chemical bonds. The intermediates (titanium, aluminium, zirconium,
beryllium, magnesium, zinc) can act as both network formers and
modifiers, according to the glass composition. The modifiers
(calcium, lead, lithium, sodium, potassium) alter the network
structure; they are usually present as ions, compensated by nearby
non-bridging oxygen atoms, bound by one covalent bond to the glass
network and holding one negative charge to compensate for the positive
ion nearby. Some elements can play multiple roles; e.g. lead can
act both as a network former (Pb4+ replacing Si4+), or as a
The presence of non-bridging oxygens lowers the relative number of
strong bonds in the material and disrupts the network, decreasing the
viscosity of the melt and lowering the melting temperature.
The alkali metal ions are small and mobile; their presence in glass
allows a degree of electrical conductivity, especially in molten state
or at high temperature. Their mobility decreases the chemical
resistance of the glass, allowing leaching by water and facilitating
corrosion. Alkaline earth ions, with their two positive charges and
requirement for two non-bridging oxygen ions to compensate for their
charge, are much less mobile themselves and also hinder diffusion of
other ions, especially the alkalis. The most common commercial glass
types contain both alkali and alkaline earth ions (usually sodium and
calcium), for easier processing and satisfying corrosion
Corrosion resistance of glass can be increased by
dealkalization, removal of the alkali ions from the glass surface
by reaction with sulfur or fluorine compounds. Presence of
alkaline metal ions has also detrimental effect to the loss tangent of
the glass, and to its electrical resistance; glass manufactured
for electronics (sealing, vacuum tubes, lamps ...) have to take
this in account.
Addition of lead(II) oxide lowers melting point, lowers viscosity of
the melt, and increases refractive index.
Lead oxide also facilitates
solubility of other metal oxides and is used in colored glass. The
viscosity decrease of lead glass melt is very significant (roughly 100
times in comparison with soda glass); this allows easier removal of
bubbles and working at lower temperatures, hence its frequent use as
an additive in vitreous enamels and glass solders. The high ionic
radius of the Pb2+ ion renders it highly immobile in the matrix and
hinders the movement of other ions; lead glasses therefore have high
electrical resistance, about two orders of magnitude higher than
soda-lime glass (108.5 vs 106.5 Ω⋅cm, DC at 250 °C). For
more details, see lead glass.
Addition of fluorine lowers the dielectric constant of glass. Fluorine
is highly electronegative and attracts the electrons in the lattice,
lowering the polarizability of the material. Such silicon
dioxide-fluoride is used in manufacture of integrated circuits as an
insulator. High levels of fluorine doping lead to formation of
volatile SiF2O and such glass is then thermally unstable. Stable
layers were achieved with dielectric constant down to about
Samples of amorphous metal, with millimeter scale
In the past, small batches of amorphous metals with high surface area
configurations (ribbons, wires, films, etc.) have been produced
through the implementation of extremely rapid rates of cooling. This
was initially termed "splat cooling" by doctoral student W. Klement at
Caltech, who showed that cooling rates on the order of millions of
degrees per second is sufficient to impede the formation of crystals,
and the metallic atoms become "locked into" a glassy state. Amorphous
metal wires have been produced by sputtering molten metal onto a
spinning metal disk. More recently a number of alloys have been
produced in layers with thickness exceeding 1 millimeter. These are
known as bulk metallic glasses (BMG).
Liquidmetal Technologies sell a
number of zirconium-based BMGs. Batches of amorphous steel have also
been produced that demonstrate mechanical properties far exceeding
those found in conventional steel alloys.
NIST researchers presented evidence that an isotropic
non-crystalline metallic phase (dubbed "q-glass") could be grown from
the melt. This phase is the first phase, or "primary phase", to form
in the Al-Fe-Si system during rapid cooling. Interestingly,
experimental evidence indicates that this phase forms by a first-order
Transmission electron microscopy
Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) images show that
the q-glass nucleates from the melt as discrete particles, which grow
spherically with a uniform growth rate in all directions. The
diffraction pattern shows it to be an isotropic glassy phase. Yet
there is a nucleation barrier, which implies an interfacial
discontinuity (or internal surface) between the glass and the
Electrolytes or molten salts are mixtures of different ions. In a
mixture of three or more ionic species of dissimilar size and shape,
crystallization can be so difficult that the liquid can easily be
supercooled into a glass. The best-studied example is
Glass electrolytes in the form of Ba-doped Li-glass
and Ba-doped Na-glass have been proposed as solutions to problems
identified with organic liquid electrolytes used in modern lithium-ion
Some aqueous solutions can be supercooled into a glassy
state, for instance LiCl:RH2O (a solution of lithium
chloride salt and water molecules) in the composition range
4<R<8. An aqueous solution containing sugar has a glassy
state and can be used as a surfactant.
A molecular liquid is composed of molecules that do not form a
covalent network but interact only through weak van der Waals forces
or through transient hydrogen bonds. Many molecular liquids can be
supercooled into a glass; some are excellent glass formers that
normally do not crystallize.
An example of this is sugar glass.
Under extremes of pressure and temperature solids may exhibit large
structural and physical changes that can lead to polyamorphic phase
transitions. In 2006 Italian scientists created an amorphous
phase of carbon dioxide using extreme pressure. The substance was
named amorphous carbonia(a-CO2) and exhibits an atomic structure
resembling that of silica.
Important polymer glasses include amorphous and glassy pharmaceutical
compounds. These are useful because the solubility of the compound is
greatly increased when it is amorphous compared to the same
crystalline composition. Many emerging pharmaceuticals are practically
insoluble in their crystalline forms.
Concentrated colloidal suspensions may exhibit a distinct glass
transition as function of particle concentration or
In cell biology, there is recent evidence suggesting that the
cytoplasm behaves like a colloidal glass approaching the liquid-glass
transition. During periods of low metabolic activity, as in
dormancy, the cytoplasm vitrifies and prohibits the movement to larger
cytoplasmic particles while allowing the diffusion of smaller ones
throughout the cell.
A high-strength glass-ceramic cooktop with negligible thermal
Glass-ceramic materials share many properties with both
non-crystalline glass and crystalline ceramics. They are formed as a
glass, and then partially crystallized by heat treatment. For example,
the microstructure of whiteware ceramics frequently contains both
amorphous and crystalline phases. Crystalline grains are often
embedded within a non-crystalline intergranular phase of grain
boundaries. When applied to whiteware ceramics, vitreous means the
material has an extremely low permeability to liquids, often but not
always water, when determined by a specified test regime.
The term mainly refers to a mix of lithium and aluminosilicates that
yields an array of materials with interesting thermomechanical
properties. The most commercially important of these have the
distinction of being impervious to thermal shock. Thus, glass-ceramics
have become extremely useful for countertop cooking. The negative
thermal expansion coefficient (CTE) of the crystalline ceramic phase
can be balanced with the positive CTE of the glassy phase. At a
certain point (~70% crystalline) the glass-ceramic has a net CTE near
zero. This type of glass-ceramic exhibits excellent mechanical
properties and can sustain repeated and quick temperature changes up
to 1000 °C.
Main article: Structure of liquids and glasses
As in other amorphous solids, the atomic structure of a glass lacks
the long-range periodicity observed in crystalline solids. Due to
chemical bonding characteristics, glasses do possess a high degree of
short-range order with respect to local atomic polyhedra.
The amorphous structure of glassy silica (SiO2) in two dimensions. No
long-range order is present, although there is local ordering with
respect to the tetrahedral arrangement of oxygen (O) atoms around the
silicon (Si) atoms.
Formation from a supercooled liquid
In physics, the standard definition of a glass (or vitreous solid) is
a solid formed by rapid melt quenching,
although the term glass is often used to describe any amorphous solid
that exhibits a glass transition temperature Tg. For melt quenching,
if the cooling is sufficiently rapid (relative to the characteristic
crystallization time) then crystallization is prevented and instead
the disordered atomic configuration of the supercooled liquid is
frozen into the solid state at Tg. The tendency for a material to form
a glass while quenched is called glass-forming ability. This ability
can be predicted by the rigidity theory. Generally, a glass
exists in a structurally metastable state with respect to its
crystalline form, although in certain circumstances, for example in
atactic polymers, there is no crystalline analogue of the amorphous
Glass is sometimes considered to be a liquid due to its lack of a
first-order phase transition where certain thermodynamic
variables such as volume, entropy and enthalpy are discontinuous
through the glass transition range. The glass transition may be
described as analogous to a second-order phase transition where the
intensive thermodynamic variables such as the thermal expansivity and
heat capacity are discontinuous. Nonetheless, the equilibrium
theory of phase transformations does not entirely hold for glass, and
hence the glass transition cannot be classed as one of the classical
equilibrium phase transformations in solids.
Glass is an amorphous solid. It exhibits an atomic structure close to
that observed in the supercooled liquid phase but displays all the
mechanical properties of a solid. The notion that glass
flows to an appreciable extent over extended periods of time is not
supported by empirical research or theoretical analysis (see viscosity
of amorphous materials). Laboratory measurements of room temperature
glass flow do show a motion consistent with a material viscosity on
the order of 1017–1018 Pa s.
Although the atomic structure of glass shares characteristics of the
structure in a supercooled liquid, glass tends to behave as a solid
below its glass transition temperature. A supercooled liquid
behaves as a liquid, but it is below the freezing point of the
material, and in some cases will crystallize almost instantly if a
crystal is added as a core. The change in heat capacity at a glass
transition and a melting transition of comparable materials are
typically of the same order of magnitude, indicating that the change
in active degrees of freedom is comparable as well. Both in a glass
and in a crystal it is mostly only the vibrational degrees of freedom
that remain active, whereas rotational and translational motion is
arrested. This helps to explain why both crystalline and
non-crystalline solids exhibit rigidity on most experimental time
Unsolved problem in physics :
What is the nature of the transition between a fluid or regular solid
and a glassy phase? "The deepest and most interesting unsolved problem
in solid state theory is probably the theory of the nature of glass
and the glass transition." —P.W. Anderson
(more unsolved problems in physics )
Behavior of antique glass
The observation that old windows are sometimes found to be thicker at
the bottom than at the top is often offered as supporting evidence for
the view that glass flows over a timescale of centuries, the
assumption being that the glass has exhibited the liquid property of
flowing from one shape to another. This assumption is incorrect,
as once solidified, glass stops flowing. The reason for the
observation is that in the past, when panes of glass were commonly
made by glassblowers, the technique used was to spin molten glass so
as to create a round, mostly flat and even plate (the crown glass
process, described above). This plate was then cut to fit a window.
The pieces were not absolutely flat; the edges of the disk became a
different thickness as the glass spun. When installed in a window
frame, the glass would be placed with the thicker side down both for
the sake of stability and to prevent water accumulating in the lead
cames at the bottom of the window. Occasionally, such glass has
been found installed with the thicker side at the top, left or
Mass production of glass window panes in the early twentieth century
caused a similar effect. In glass factories, molten glass was poured
onto a large cooling table and allowed to spread. The resulting glass
is thicker at the location of the pour, located at the center of the
large sheet. These sheets were cut into smaller window panes with
nonuniform thickness, typically with the location of the pour centered
in one of the panes (known as "bull's-eyes") for decorative effect.
Modern glass intended for windows is produced as float glass and is
very uniform in thickness.
Several other points can be considered that contradict the "cathedral
glass flow" theory:
Writing in the American Journal of Physics, the materials engineer
Edgar D. Zanotto states "... the predicted relaxation time for
GeO2 at room temperature is 1032 years. Hence, the relaxation period
(characteristic flow time) of cathedral glasses would be even
longer." (1032 years is many times longer than the estimated age
of the universe.)
If medieval glass has flowed perceptibly, then ancient Roman and
Egyptian objects should have flowed proportionately more—but this is
not observed. Similarly, prehistoric obsidian blades should have lost
their edge; this is not observed either (although obsidian may have a
different viscosity from window glass).
If glass flows at a rate that allows changes to be seen with the naked
eye after centuries, then the effect should be noticeable in antique
telescopes. Any slight deformation in the antique telescopic lenses
would lead to a dramatic decrease in optical performance, a phenomenon
that is not observed.
Ear stud, ca. 1390–1353 B.C.E., 48.66.30, Brooklyn Museum. The
shafts of these brightly colored studs were inserted through a hole in
the earlobe to display the studs' circular heads.
Phoenician glass necklace 5th–6th century BC
Roman glass amphoriskoi 1st–2nd century AD
Blue head flask (Roman, AD 300–500, cast glass)
Lombardic glass drinking horn 6th–7th century AD
Two cups cobalt blue glass with gilt floral decoration from India,
Mughal, circa 1700–1775
Base for a water pipe, India, Mughal, circa 1700–1775
Venetian goblet made in Italy in the early 19th century.
Bracelets with peacocks, Delhi, enameled silver inlaid with gemstones
and glass, 19th century
Jug, 1876, James Powell & Sons
Siphon bottle for seltzer water, 1922
Glass Hostmaster Tea Cup, cobalt blue, 1930
Perfume set from Soviet Union, ca. 1965
Murano millefiori glass vase
Detail from a glass chandelier
The Rotunda, or main entrance, of the Victoria and Albert Museum now
sports a 30 ft high, blown glass chandelier by Dale Chihuly
Peking glass vase. The color is named "Imperial
Yellow" after the flag of the Qing Dynasty.
The use of glass dials in this "mystery watch" creates the illusion
the hands move without movement
Testing flatness with an optical flat. The smooth surface of glass is
used for measurements much smaller than the wavelength of the light by
creating a pattern of light and dark fringes.
Uranium glass cake stand fluorescing in ultraviolet light
Modern glass can be chiselled and bonded into monumental sculptural
Fabrication and testing of optical components
Optical lens design
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