Types of Glasses: Uses & Properties

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  • 0:03 What Is Glass?
  • 2:02 Soda-Lime Glass
  • 2:55 Borosilicate Glass
  • 3:45 Lead Glass
  • 4:28 Silica Glass
  • 5:06 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Hemnath (Vikash) Seeboo

Taught Science (mainly Chemistry, Physics and Math) at high school level and has a Master's Degree in Education.

In this lesson, you'll learn about the different common types of glass that are available. You'll also learn how different chemical compositions of glass lead to different properties and uses.

What Is Glass?

Can you guess which material is commonly used to make smartphone screens, bottles, eye spectacles, microscopic slides, solar panels, and window panes? I bet you got it right… It is glass! Thanks to its countless applications, glass has become a vital part of our daily lives; however, many of its uses go unnoticed. Glass is a material that has been used since the Stone Age, and it is becoming increasingly clear that modern life would not be possible without glass.

Glass is an amorphous, or non-crystalline, solid material. An amorphous solid displays properties of both a solid and a liquid. Like liquids, an amorphous solid has atoms and molecules that aren't arranged in an orderly manner. Like solids, their atoms and molecules are rigidly fixed and are not free to move. Glass is known to be transparent, hard, chemically inert, biologically inactive, and an insulator towards heat and electricity. Glass is also a brittle material.

What is glass made of? Believe it or not, sand is basically the main ingredient of all types of glass since it can provide silicon dioxide, SiO 2 . Essentially, sand is mixed and heated with other components. This molten mixture is then allowed to cool, and glass is eventually formed. You might have also noticed the existence of different types of glass. These glasses have different chemical compositions, which in turn give rise to different properties.

For example, aluminium oxide is added to molten glass to increase its durability, while cerium is added during glass manufacturing so it can absorb infrared radiation. Glass can be given a desired color by adding transition metal compounds to the molten mixture. The type of glass that is manufactured depends on its intended usage. Let's now look at four of the most common glass compositions, their properties, and typical applications.

Soda-Lime Silica Glass

Soda-lime silica glass or soda-lime glass, is composed of around 70% sand (SiO2), 15% soda (Na2 O) and around 10% lime (CaO). Other materials can be added to impart specific properties. For example iron oxide can be added to produce green and brown soda-lime glasses. The soda used acts as a flux to reduce the melting temperature of the molten sand, while the lime is used as a stabilizer for the silica. Soda lime glass is relatively inexpensive, chemically stable, reasonably hard, and extremely workable. It is the most prevalent type of glass used in the world, and it is used in the making of window panes, dinnerware, bulbs, bottles and jars. Since soda-lime glass can be re-softened and re-melted, they can be recycled.

Borosilicate Glass

Have you ever used glasses that can tolerate sudden temperature changes without cracking or shattering? Think of that glass container which you have removed from a freezer and soon afterward heated in an oven. There are instances where thermal, mechanical, and chemical conditions are too harsh to use standard soda lime glass, and fortunately the borosilicate glass family has come to the rescue. Borosilicate glass consists of sand or silica, soda and lime with at least 5% boric oxide (B2 O3). Boron oxide expands very little when heated, thus making borosilicate glasses resistant to cracking in strong heat. Borosilicate glasses have high melting points and are also resistant to chemicals, thus making them suitable for microscopic lenses and slides, household cookware, and laboratory glassware such as tubes, beakers, and measuring cylinders.

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