Technical glass – an introduction

1 min read

Goodfellow introduces the uses and flexibility of technical glass.

Glass is almost everywhere we look; the outside world is literally covered in glass (if you look at it through your window). There are two main defining characteristics of glass. First, it’s an amorphous (non-crystalline) solid, which means there isn’t a long-range order in the positioning of its molecules. The second characteristic is that glass exhibits a reversible transition from a hard,brittle state to a molten state. When it’s heated and this happens, there is no pronounced change in the material structure. These characteristics form the basis of innovative glass solutions to high-tech challenges.

When it comes to technical glass applications, the majority require a delicate balance of properties that meet specific performance objectives. For example, if the glass has to be easily machinable so that it can be manufactured in large commercial quantities, it will require specific properties that are fit for the purpose. For an application such as this, it would be typical that several different glass compositions are produced to be tried and tested before the ideal formulation is found.

Specially-formulated technical glass can be found in a wide range of scientific fields and applications.

Here are a few examples:

  • Aerospace: instrumentation, radiation shielding devices, connectors
  • Automotive: light controls, sensors, air bag detonation systems
  • Electronics: sensors, capacitors, thermostats, coating of components
  • Telecommunications: fibre optic apparatus
  • Optics: specialty lenses, mirrors, infrared and UV filters
  • Fuel cells and microwaves: hermetic connectors, sealing components
  • Medical: bio-active coatings for orthopaedic implants.

It’s often found that performance of the glass can be adapted for various applications, and formulation can certainly influence function. Different applications require different formulations. Here are some of the properties that can be altered with custom glass formulation:

  • Thermal properties: stability, melt temperature, expansion for component compatibility
  • Physical durability: hardness, abrasion and wear resistance
  • Colour: aesthetics and functionality
  • Chemical durability: for resistance to acids and bases
  • Refractive index matching and dispersion: optic and fibre optic applications.