Glass is everywhere. It makes up the windows and mirrors in your home as well as those soda pop bottles you drink out of. It’s such an everyday item that most people don’t give too much thought about them. However, there is an intricate process that goes into the making of glass. Before the process is explained, though, it helps to understand what glass is and what it’s made of.
What is Glass?
Glass is made from liquid sand, which is obtained from regular sand and heating it at a temperature of 1700 Celsius until it liquefies. When the sand cools, it doesn’t return to its original form. Rather, it undergoes a complete structural change and takes the form of what is referred to as an amorphous solid. In laymen’s terms, amorphous solids can be best described as a cross between a solid and liquid with crystalline properties. It’s very interesting because while glass appears solid, it’s not completely so, though it’s not entirely liquid either.
The Glass Manufacturing Process
In a commercial glass plant, glass is typically produced using a mixture of sand, soda ash, limestone, and remnants of waste or recycled glass. The soda ash helps reduce the sand’s melting point, which reduces energy expenditure and cost. The drawback, though, is that this also makes the glass extremely fragile, so fragile, in fact, that it would dissolve in water. The Limestone is added to prevent this from happening. The glass that comes out of the furnace is known as soda-lime-silica glass, and is the run-of-the-mill kind that makes up the windows of our homes and shopping centers.
Manufacturers may also add other ingredients to give the finished material a different appearance or quality. Chromium and iron, for example, are added for making green-tinted glass. Likewise, lead oxide is added for making crystal glass, which is known for its ability to refract light and create a visually appealing and sparkly glimmer.
To acquire a flat sheet of glass for windows, mirrors, and sliding glass doors, a rolling process is used. This is done by pouring molten glass into iron rollers that flatten the material until the desired thickness and smoothness is achieved. This also eliminates bubbles, which can cause an unsightly appearance once the glass solidifies.
Appreciating the Glass all Around You
Now that you know how glass is produced, you can have a newfound appreciation for such a simple and everyday material. What started as the stuff covering the floors of your favorite beach is the primary ingredient for making an essential but often overlooked item.