This material is as old as the world itself

Silica

Look at Louvre Pyramid’s glass. How amazing! Today, I will give you the ingredients for making glass:

  • Lots of sand (specifically a form of sand, called silica)
  • Sodium carbonate
  • Limestone

Actually, you can produce glass with only silica if you can melt it at a temperature of approximately 3,600 C. The other ingredients are melted with the silica in order to ease the glass making process; sodium carbonate lowers the glass transition temperature where limestone provides a better chemical durability to the mixture.
But how people figured out to melt sand to make glass?In order to learn this, we need to go back around 6,000 years ago, and you see people there using naturally occurred glass, called obsidian. Historians say that this hard and dark volcanic rock is found in the mouth of the volcanoes, and it was the first used glass by humankind. This natural glass was also used for making knives, arrowheads, scrapers and many other tools in the Stone Age.

Obsidian

The first man-made glass, however, was used in 3500 BC and glass containers were made 2,000 years later in Mesopotamia and Egypt. Producing glass was a hard process because melting furnaces were small and it was hardly enough to reach to that temperature. After Syrian craftsmen invented the blow pipe in the 1st century, the glass production process became easier, faster and cheaper, and spread throughout the Middle East and Europe.

Colored glass at Miami Airport

In the 8th century, Jabir ibn Hayyan, a Persian chemist, discovered that metal oxides were the secret ingredients for producing colored glass. For example, if you add sulfur to the mixture, you can produce a yellow-amber colored glass. Do you want to put blue glass in your son’s room? Put a little cobalt oxide inside the mixture!

Lastly, glass making improved from traditional ways to automatic process in 1887 when Howard Ashley introduced a machine capable of producing 200 glass bottles per hour in Yorkshire, England.

Posted on March 10, 2107

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