Did you ever ask yourself: If glass is made of solid materials, then why is that glass is transparent? Wooster Glass Co.’s talented glaziers, designers and support staff work with the material every single day, and it’s easy to take the unique qualities of glass for granted. Here are some interesting facts about the material and what makes glass transparent.
Glass is made primarily of this substance found in sand
If you have been to the shores of Lake Erie or any beach, then there is a good chance you walked across sand. Did you know the main ingredient of glass is sand? Well, technically, the main ingredient is a component of sand: Quartz, aka silicon dioxide or silica sand.
The quartz is combined with other materials, or you might consider them ingredients like you would find in a recipe. While those ingredients can vary, they include materials like soda ash, dolomite and limestone.
The ingredients are heated, then cooled
Wooster Glass Co. doesn’t produce glass, rather it uses glass products from a number of manufacturers. We use glass from companies like Pilkington North America and PGW in a variety of automotive, architectural, decorative, safety, and residential applications.
Pilkington Glass began in England, where Alastair Pilkington invented the float glass process. What Pilkington developed was a way to take the ingredients that make up glass, heat them up, then float them on a bath of molten tin. The silica sand, soda ash, dolomite and limestone are heat up to around 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit (about 1,000 degrees Celsius). At that temperature, they become a molten liquid. There is debate as to whether glass is a solid or a liquid. Scientists describe it as an amorphous solid.
In 1952, Alastair Pilkington figured out he could pour the molten glass onto a bed of molten tin. As the molten glass is poured onto the shallow bath of molten tin, it spreads out. It also creates a smooth surface. It is drawn off the molten tin and cut into sheets, also called lites. What makes the float process attractive to glass manufacturers is it reduces costs. The reason is the lites do not have to be grinded down and polished to become smooth and the glass is transparent and clear.
Before the glass can be cut, it is cooled (called annealed), which helps to strengthen the final product.
Here is why glass is transparent
The reason glass is transparent is very technical. In a nutshell, the makeup of glass allows light to pass through it. Mark Miodownick created a lesson on why glass is transparent, and you can watch this entertaining and educational video to find out more about this fascinating process.
“It is hard to imagine modern civilization without glass, and, yet, for such an important material, we rarely think about glass and its impact. It is precisely because the most important and useful quality of glass is being featureless and invisible that we often forget it is even there.” Mark Miodownik
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Thanks for spending a few minutes to learn about why glass is transparent. Miodownik was correct in saying people rarely think about glass and its impact. But, at Wooster Glass, we think about it every day.
If we can ever be of help with your glass project, whether it is repairing or replacing a windshield, creating a storefront, or a large commercial project, then let us know. You can call us at 330-264-8652 or contact us online.