The beauty and versatility of glass are often overlooked in the course of daily living. The strategic use of glass can let natural light into homes or offices, and it can make small rooms appear more spacious. Archaeologists discovered that glass has been in use by humans for thousands of years. It continues to be a popular construction material because it is relatively inexpensive to make, easy to handle, recyclable and ideal for a myriad of applications. In fact, you just may be wearing a pair of glasses while reading this post.
Standard Glass Making
Glass is made when ordinary sand is heated to temperatures above 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit and then gradually cooled and shaped. Historically, glass was blown into the shapes of bottles, bowls or lanterns as needed. Early glass makers also smoothed the molten glass out into sheets to make window panes. You and your family can see how these early artisans made glass firsthand by visiting the Historic Jamestown Glass-Blowing Exhibit at colonial Williamsburg, Virginia.
Modern glass manufacturers use more advanced techniques for making window panes, which result in smooth glass panes versus the wavy glass panes that are often found on historic homes. No matter the manufacturing method, glass is unique primarily because it has the physical attributes of a solid but some of the molecular properties of a liquid. Subsequently, glass is sometimes called an amorphous solid.
Creating Specialty Glass
In general, the sand from which glass is derived is chemically comprised of silicon dioxide. Different processing methods and added chemicals are used to create glass for various purposes. For instance, the glass mug that holds your morning latte is not the same type of glass that is used to make your car's windshield. Tempered glass is used for items like car windshields as well as for shower doors, and its properties make it extra hard and resistant to dangerous shattering. Annealing is the key technique that is used to turn ordinary glass into tempered glass. During annealing, glass is heated to a high temperature, and its outer edges are rapidly cooled with carefully applied air pressure. When the hot and cooled portion of the glass pull away from each other, the glass becomes harder, stronger and more shatter resistant. A less cost-effective method of annealing involves the application of the chemical compound potassium nitrate to the glass.
Sustainability in Glass Production
Today, many environmentally-conscious consumers use glassware instead of items that are made from other materials because it is recyclable. While all types of glass can be recycled, there are distinct limitations when it comes to recycling tempered, safety or impact-resistant glass. It is unlikely that your old car's windshield will get recycled into your next favorite latte mug; they are made of two different types of glass. However, tempered and chemically treated glass can be crushed and used to make a roadway pavement material that is called Glassphalt. Some of these types of glass can by recycled into fiberglass, or they can be crushed and mixed with concrete to make decorative countertops, backsplashes and flooring. By the way, those decorative accents look great with our line of frameless shower enclosures.
Glass Castle is a regional leader in glass repair, replacements and brand-new installations. Give us a call for all of your glass work needs, and we will put our decades of experience to work for you.