Wednesday, 23 October 2013

World's Thinnest Glass

Earlier this year a new addition to the Guinness World records was made, that being, the world’s thinnest silica glass. Created purely by accident, scientists at Cornell University, manage to create a one molecule thick “pane” of glass. The same type of glass used in windows and light bulbs. The small pane of glass, which is essentially a 2-Dimensional object, was first created back in January of 2012, but has only recently been recognised as the “world’s thinnest glass”. While this discovery will have little immediate impact on the glazing world, it could mean big things for computers and mobile devices.
But why is this important, you ask, well up until now, no one has been able to see how glass molecules interact, or even how they arrange themselves. See, when matter turns from a liquid into a solid, the molecules form into a rigid structure. But glass is different, when it solidifies; the molecules remain in a liquid structure. This meant many people believed that glass was a solid liquid, and that it could “flow”. But this is not the case. Glass just manages to skip one of the transitional phases matter goes through when changing from a liquid to a solid. Meaning glass is a solid that has a molecular structure that looks like liquid.

So now with the aid of an electron microscope, scientist can observe how this 2D glass’s molecules react to being bent and broken, a process that until now could only be theorized. While this new found knowledge may take a while to reach the general glazing world. It could well mean new techniques for strengthening glass used in the home and car. Or maybe result in new pressurised cabins for deep sea exploration or world land speed records. But this is likely to be a ways off yet. For now, researchers are looking towards faster more efficient computers and electronic devices.

Currently very thin pieces of glass are used in lithium ion batteries as part of the charging process. Reducing the thickness of this glass would result in faster charge times. There are also advancements to be made in computer chips. Thinner glass means smaller circuits, which could result in faster computers. Not to mention the possible advancements in nanotechnology. 

Whatever the outcome from this discovery, we can be sure of one thing, the future is clear.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

An Introduction to Common Glass Types

Rather than jump straight into some piece about new advancements in glass, I thought it would be prudent to explain the different types of glass found in windows and doors of your average home. The three main types are annealed or float, toughened and laminate.


More commonly called float because when it is produced it is floated on a bed of molten tin. This is the most common type of glass found in windows throughout your home. It is not a safety glass, and if it breaks, extreme caution should be taken in picking up any broken pieces. This is because the “raw” edge of glass is razor sharp, light cuts cause virtually no pain, but will bleed a lot. It may sound a little dangerous to have around the home, but it is the most common due to its price. It is also relatively safe, as the Australian standards state it cannot be used next to a door, or in any window that could be mistaken for a door.


This is the glass you see on TV that blows up into a million pieces when it is shot at. This is annealed glass that has gone through a heattreatment. This is the most expensive option, primarily due to not being able to cut it after it has been heat treated. That is, if it is made the wrong size, it must be remade. The reason this is given a grade A safety rating is because once it has blown up, the worst you could expect is some minor cuts. Where in comparison, if you got a few shards of annealed dropped on you, you could very well loose a limb.


This is two pieces of annealed glass stuck together with a thin plastic interlayer. It is the kind of glass found in your car’s front windscreen. It will break just as easy as normal annealed glass, except the interlayer will hold the glass in place. It is because of this that laminate is a grade A safety glass, and also why it is a common choice for doors and windows in your home. Unlike annealed of toughened glass, if laminate breaks it does not create a void to the outside.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Why Glass?

Why do a blog about glass? Or more importantly, why would an internet communications university student do a blog about glass? Well, I was not always a university student. The first 8 years of my working life were spent as a qualified Glazier, well technically only 4. It did take 4 years to ‘become’ a Glazier. But aside from that, glass is an amazing substance. And it offers us a way to observe a completely different environment from the one we are standing in. A glazing example of this would be a window. Look at it like this, while you stand in your climate controlled home or office you can gaze out the nearest window and marvel at the wonders of mother nature, without having to be ‘in’ that environment.

But aside from the general wonders of glass, like all people I would assume, there was a single moment were I went from thinking about doing a blog on glass, to actually writing a blog about glass. That moment came in September of this year when I read, through the grapevine of social media, that the Guinness World Records was officially recognising the accidental work of some university scientists. That while performing an experiment they noticed a gunk build up, which later turned out to be a single molecule thick piece of glass. The fact Guinness was recognising it was not what inspired me, but what this discovery will mean for glass. See the problem up until now was that the way glass molecules interact, and change, at the point of breaking or bending was only theorized. No one had been able to view the effects. Also, super thin glass could result in all sorts of advancements in transistors and nanotechnology.

So there you have it, the reason/s why I chose to write about glass. It is not just that glass offers a window to different environments, such as windows, fish tanks, or terrariums. But that glass is important part of modern technology, and now that we can understand how it works better, we can move forward with tinnier and more efficient devices.