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Introduction

Glass can be beautiful and strong, so why is it not used more often as a structural material? Most often the reasoning is because people fear its perceived fragile and dangerous nature. Although this is the perception, it is far from the reality. Structurally designed glass can even withstand higher loads than steel.

Now you see it, now you don’t. Glass is a bit of a riddle. It’s hard enough to protect us, but it shatters with incredible ease. It’s made from opaque sand, yet it’s completely transparent. And, perhaps most surprisingly of all, it behaves like a solid material but it’s also a sort of weird liquid in disguise! 

Thanks to innovative technologies, unusual shapes as well as sustainable products can be produced with glass.

History

Glass is a material with a 9000 year history. Unlike bronze and iron, no epoch has been named after glass. Nevertheless, it is a material with prehistoric beginnings which was later produced in traditional craft and manufacturing establishments, and is now mass produced. Today, glass is a material with vast innovative potential that our everyday lives would be impossible to conceive without. Without glass, the world would be unrecognisable. It’s in the eyeglasses on your face, the lightbulbs in your room, and the windows that let you see outside.

Obsidian is volcanic glass formed when silica-rich lavas are cooled too rapidly for crystals to form 

But despite its ubiquity, there’s still some debate within the research community about how to define “glass.” Some tend to emphasise its solid qualities, others its liquidity. Unanswered questions abound, like what makes one type of glass stronger than another, or why certain mixtures produce their unique optical or structural propertiesThough natural volcanic glasses like obsidian were fashioned into tools early in human history, glass was probably first manufactured in Mesopotamia more than 4,000 years ago. Likely, it was developed as an offshoot of ceramic-glaze production. 

The oldest glass was found in Egypt dating back to 2000 BC

Properties

Believe it or not, glass is made from liquid sand. You can make glass by heating ordinary sand (which is mostly made of silicon dioxide) until it melts and turns into a liquid. You won’t find that happening on your local beach: sand melts at the incredibly high temperature of 1700°C (3090°F). 

Recycled crushed glass has been considered as a partial replacement for the sand on some of Florida’s eroding beaches.

When molten sand cools, it doesn’t turn back into the gritty yellow stuff you started out with: it undergoes a complete transformation and gains an entirely different inner structure. But it doesn’t matter how much you cool the sand, it never quite sets into a solid. Instead, it becomes a kind of frozen liquid or what materials scientists refer to as an amorphous solid. It’s like a cross between a solid and a liquid with some of the crystalline order of a solid and some of the molecular randomness of a liquid.

When sand reaches its melting point it undergoes a complete transformation.

Glass is such a popular material in our homes because it has all kinds of really useful properties. Apart from being transparent, it’s inexpensive to make, easy to shape when it’s molten, reasonably resistant to heat when it’s set, chemically inert (so a glass jar doesn’t react with the things you put inside it), and it can be recycled any number of times

Glass is one of the world’s oldest and most versatile human-created materials. 

Materiality

The sand commonly used to make glass is composed of small grains of quartz crystals, made up of molecules of silicon dioxide, which is also known as silica. When those molecules are heated to high enough temperatures, the sand melts and loses its crystalline structure, and as it cools it gains an entirely different structure. That structure, on a molecular level, is somewhere in between a liquid and a solid. This in-between state is known as an amorphous solid, which means it has some of the crystalline structure of a solid coupled with the molecular randomness of a liquid.

To be suitable for use in the production of glass, the silica must be chemically pure (contain more than 95% silicon dioxide) and be the right size (have a grain size of between 0.075mm and 1.18mm), and color.

Glass is a semi- or fully transparent hard, brittle, lustrous material made by igneous fusion of silica (usually sand) with an alkaline sodium or potassium salt and added ingredients. It appears to have come into use for glazing the windows of grander buildings during the Roman Empire.Traditionally, glass was used as a single pane in concurrence with a load carrying frame. But if we see today, glass as a building material is also used as a primary structural member in the form of glass fins, walls and beams. 

Sheets of Factory manufacturing tempered clear float glass panels cut to size

Varieties Of Glass For Construction

Types of Glass Used In Construction

There are 11 types of glass used in construction industries

Fabric laminating gives you the opportunity to encapsulate a selection of fabrics within protective glass layers.
  • Sheet or Flat Glass: Sheet glass is produced by having molten glass pass through the rollers to manufacture a nearly flat finish.
  • Float Glass:Float glass is made from sodium silicate and calcium silicate, it is also known as soda-lime glass.
  • Laminated Glass:As the name refers, this glass comprises layers of ordinary glass bonded by a transparent, flexible material. As it is a sandwich made up of two or more sheets of glass.
  • Shatterproof Glass: Shatterproof glass is a type of glass that is resistant to shattering. In other words, it doesn’t break into pieces in the event of destruction.
  • Energy-efficient Glass: This type of glass building material is manufactured by glazing float glass with a special thin coating on one side.
  • Wired Glass: Wired glass glass building material has a wire mesh provided in the middle portion of the structure of glass.
  • Tinted Glass: Tinted glass glass building material is simply colored glass. A certain type of ionis added to the normal glass mix to produce colored glass.
  • Toughened Glass: Toughened glass is used extensively throughout the industry for its ability to resist breaking, also called safety or tempered glass.
  • Chromatic Glass: This type of glass is utilized in ICUs & meeting rooms, chromatic glass can control the transparent efficiency to protect the interior from daylight.
  • Extra-clean / Self-cleaning Glass:Self-cleaning glass is both photocatalytic & hydrophobic.
  • Glass Blocks: Glass blocks or Hollow glass wall blocks are manufactured as two separate halves and, while the glass is still molten, these two pieces are pressed together and annealed.
The appearance of glass blocks can vary in color, size, texture and form.

Architects love glass because it does not obstruct a view or visually interrupt a room. Structural engineers should love it because when theoretically compared to steel, it can carry two times the tension load. The main reason that glass is often perceived as dangerous is because it shows no warning signs before failure. This is due solely to the lack of elasticity in glass. Glass has shaped the world more than any other substance, and in many sneaky ways, it’s the defining material of the human era.

Dichroic glass is glass which can display multiple different colors depending on lighting conditions.

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