We interact with glass every day: we look through windows, drink from cups, scroll through our phones and turn on lights. Glass is a versatile substance that can be shattered but is strong enough to protect us.
Without glass, many of humanity’s essential inventions wouldn’t exist. Making clocks or watches would be impossible, and we wouldn’t have bulbs, glasses and contact lenses.
But when you sit down and think about it, you may wonder: what is glass made of, and how is it made? You could go your whole life without knowing the answers to these questions: until today! TuffX is here to tell you about the basics of glass: stick with us to learn more.
What is glass?
Glass is a mixture of natural substances. The raw materials include soda ash, limestone and sand which, when heated at extreme temperatures, hardens to make an entirely new substance.
However, glass never really hardens! Despite its solid feel and appearance, all glass loses its crystalline structure when exposed to extreme heat and pressure. The once-solid mixture of soda ash, limestone and sand takes on an entirely new molecular structure that sits between a solid and a liquid.
Scientists have deemed this type of substance an amorphous solid, with some others including gels, plastics and rubbers. Each grain of sand is composed of quartz crystals made from silicon dioxide. Also known as ‘silica’, this is the element of sand that loses its molecular structure and makes the process of creating glass possible.
How is glass made?
To make glass, modern plants must use furnaces that reach temperatures of 3090 degrees Fahrenheit (or 1700 degrees Celsius). Glass is a form of liquid sand that, once left to harden, forms a molten liquid capable of further processing.
Historians believe that the basic glass-making process has been around for thousands of years, dating back to Ancient Egypt. Archaeological discoveries show that the citizens of Mesopotamia used glass to construct jewellery and vessels in 700 BC.
Cities along the Eastern Coast of the Mediterranean Sea were at the forefront of glass-making for half a century. That was until the invention of glass-blowing in 1BC.
Glass-blowing involves the inflation of molten glass using a pipe full of air, and with this process, glass-making became cheaper and quicker. With glass-blowing, you can create vases, sculptures, jewellery and jars, with the shape ultimately being decided by the individual glass-maker.
In order to produce coloured glass, like the kind used in stained glass windows, vases and jewellery, there must be an extra step in the traditional heating process. Once the soda ash, limestone and sand become molten glass, metal powders and oxides are added to the mixture.
Adding cadmium and sulphur creates a yellow colour, cobalt makes blue, and copper oxide produces a green or blue effect. As we have seen, glass can be manufactured in many different ways. However, the leading type of glass we see daily is soda-lime glass.
What do we use glass for?
Soda-lime glass production happens on a large scale: it creates windows, drinking bottles, bakeware, glass containers and countless other products.
Commercial glass plants recycle waste glass to create soda-lime and combine it with limestone, soda ash and sand. Each component of the mixture is equally vital. For example, adding soda ash reduces the sand’s high melting point.
Not only does this save money for manufacturers, but it reduces energy costs. However, this type of glass has little chemical durability and would dissolve in contact with liquid.
Limestone acts as a stabiliser, readying the molten glass for cooling. Depending on the intended product, different types of blowing and pressing can mould the mixture.
Crafting windows for domestic and commercial purposes involves pouring the molten glass into a tray made from tin. The glass floats on the surface, which then creates a sheet. The sheet would later be placed onto rollers to achieve the desired thickness, width and dimensions manufacturers require.
Glass is used in many industries, including but not limited to:
Construction and Housing
Architectural glass is vital for creating walk-on rooflights, internal partitions, balustrades, balconies, and more! Glass used for construction is usually toughened safety glass, like the products manufactured at TuffX.
Glass tableware, like plates, cups, bowls and glasses, are used by millions of people globally. It is resistant to high temperatures, meaning food can be microwaved safely while plated. Glass tableware is more environmentally friendly than plastic materials and will last longer.
Creating appliances like oven doors, microwaves, computer screens, and TVs would be impossible without glass. Touchscreen technology, like the kind used by smartphones and laptops, relies on the non-conductive properties of glass to function.
As well as being indispensable to corrective lenses, contacts and glasses, glass has many biomedical applications. To examine blood samples, scientists must use transparent microscopic slides. Mixing chemicals requires heat-resistant borosilicate glass.
Laminated safety glass is essential for creating vehicle windscreens, windows and sunroofs. It can also be used as a structural component of vessels and aircraft. Depending on the manufacturing process, it can be waterproof, shatter-resistant or toughened for extra protection.
Many cosmetic products are packaged in glass bottles, tubs and tubes. Skincare, perfume and makeup products benefit from glass packaging, as its airtight properties lock out moisture and lengthen the shelf life.
In the pharmaceutical industry, the chemical resistance of soda-lime glass makes it perfect for packaging powders and tablets. It is highly heat-resistant and non-reactive, meaning it will not affect the chemical composition of the medicines inside.
Choose TuffX as your Glass manufacturer!
Here at TuffX, we have mastered the art of modern glass-making. We produce toughened glass for construction and architectural purposes, using the latest technology to create industry-leading materials.
Our 25 years of experience have made us the UKs leading processed-glass supplier. Our modern engineering technology allows us to create products with 19mm thickness, ensuring safety for your walk-on rooflights, balconies and staircases.
So if you’re looking to purchase toughened safety glass for residential or commercial purposes, our TuffX manufacturers are the most knowledgeable in the industry.