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Facts About Glass: Properties, Types and Uses

A botany graduate, Nithya Venkat enjoys researching and writing about topics that interest her.

Glass jars

Glass jars

Glass is one of the most versatile materials globally. Glass can be used to manufacture a wide range of products. Glass has been used since ancient times to make decorative and practical objects.

History of Glass

Ancient Romans made flat glass by rolling out the hot glass on a smooth surface. The resulting glass was neither clear nor even, but it was good to use in windows of those days. Glass was a luxury at the time, and only the nobility could afford it.

By 1668, the French company Saint-Gobain had perfected a “broad-glass” manufacturing method that involved blowing glass cylinders, slitting and unrolling them to an almost flat rectangle. This plate was then ground and polished on both sides.

During the late 1800s, new additives were mixed in, and glass was re-heated after manufacture in a special oven, then flattened and affixed to a piece of polished glass which preserved its surface.

In 1871, William Pilkington invented the machine that allowed large sheets of glass to be made. By the early 1900s, most of the glass was manufactured using the sheet glass method. In this method, a ribbon of glass is drawn from a tank furnace between cooled rollers to produce less expensive glass.

What is Glass

Glass is a non-crystalline amorphous solid. It is made from natural raw materials like sand, soda ash, and limestone melted at a very high temperature to form a new material called glass.

At a high-temperature, glass is structurally similar to liquids; however, at ambient temperature, it behaves like solids; thus, glass can be poured, blown, pressed, and molded into many shapes.

The manufacturing process in glass industries depends on the final product being manufactured and its end-applications. The exact composition of glass varies to meet the specific application requirements.

The most commonly used type of glass, the soda-lime glass, is made of silica sand, soda ash, limestone, dolomite, and recycled glass.

How is glass made

Modern glass variants are produced from float glass. Float glass is a sheet of molten glass on a molten metal bed such as lead or tin. This glass sheet is of uniform thickness and smoothness.

To manufacture float glass, the raw materials are mixed in a batch in specified ratios.

The raw materials include:

  • Silica
  • Sodium oxide from soda ash
  • Calcium oxide from limestone
  • Dolomite
  • Feldspar
  • Broken glass or cullet

These raw materials result in the production of clear glass. Other raw materials such as cobalt, copper, gold are added to produce colored glass.

The raw materials are mixed and transferred to a furnace at 1500 degrees Celsius, where they melt and then passed over a mirror-like surface of a molten tin float bath at 1100 degrees Celsius. Then the glass leaves as a ribbon at a temperature of 600 degrees Celsius. After this, soft or hard coatings are applied to the glass's surface to modify the optical properties. The glass is then cooled gradually and cut to order.

Stained Glass Window

Stained Glass Window

Properties of Glass

The properties of glass depending upon the substances that are added while manufacturing the glass. The substances that are added to alter the properties of glass are mostly in the form of oxides.

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  • Lead is added to enhance the brilliance and weight of glass.
  • Boron for thermal and electrical resistance
  • Barium to increase the refractive index
  • Cerium to absorb infrared rays
  • Metallic oxides to give color

Glass is an excellent material for making household items such as glass, plates, storage bottles because glass is chemically inert.

the glass shards are held together by the laminated glass used to make windshields

the glass shards are held together by the laminated glass used to make windshields

Types of Glass & Uses

Laminated Glass

Laminated glass is constructed from two piles of glass that are bonded together with interlayers to forms a permanent bond. The interlayers help to support and hold the glass to create a strong, uniformed layer even when broken. This means that the laminated glass will hold together even when broken.

Laminate glass comes in varying thicknesses and can be created using different glass combinations or coatings to provide different glass qualities.

Laminated glass is harder to break due to the interlayer bond. This makes it an excellent material to use in -

  • buildings that need high security and homes to prevent break-ins
  • automobile and aviation industries for the safety of passengers
  • homes that are in areas where tornadoes are frequent
  • jewelry showrooms
  • in police cars, police stations, and bulletproof vests.

The properties of laminated glass help reduce the damaging effect of the sun's UV radiation and help to keep the office or home cool thereby, improving energy efficiency.

Fiber Glass

Fiber Glass


Fiberglass is made of fine, solid rods of glass, each one of these rods measures less than one-twentieth of the width of a human hair.

It is used to make wool-like fibers that serve as heat insulation material. The fiberglass can also be used like wool or cotton fibers to make glass yarn, tape, cloth, and mats. It is also used for electrical insulation, chemical filtration, and to make firefighter suits.

Fiberglass is combined with plastic and used in airplane wings, body parts of automobiles, and boat hulls.

Bulletproof Glass

Bulletproof glass is a thick multilayer of laminated glass that can stop heavy-caliber bullets. It shatters on impact, but the interlayers of the laminated glass hold the glass fragments together. This type of glass is also used to manufacture bank teller windows and make windshields for military tanks and aircraft.

Tempered Glass

Tempered glass is stronger than laminated glass. It is a single sheet of glass and does not have several layers similar to the laminated glass. It is used for glass doors, side and rear windows of automobiles, and basketball backboards. This glass is hard to break, but when it does, it shatters into many fragments.

Foam Glass

Foam glass is filled with many tiny cells of gas. Each cell is sealed off from the other by a thin glass wall. It is light and floats on water. It is used as an insulator in buildings, steam pipes, and chemical equipment.

Heat-Resistant Glass

Heat-resistant glass is high in silica and contains boric acid. This glass expands slightly when heated and does not crack at high temperatures. Due to the heat-resistant property, this type of glass is used to manufacture cookware, household, laboratory, and industrial equipment. It is also used in the manufacture of electric bulbs and television sets.

Heat Reflective Glass

Heat Reflective Glass has two panes of glass separated by a layer of argon gas that improves insulation. This type of glass is used to make windows of apartments and other buildings. It helps keep your home warm during winter and cool during summer.

Glass Fibers

Glass Fibers

Other Types of Glass

Glass Optical Fibers are used to transmit information in the form of pulses of light. These fibers are fragile and are used to transmit telephone, television signals, and digital data over long distances.

Glass Ceramics can withstand very high temperatures and can take a sudden change in temperatures without breaking, and is resistant to chemical erosion. This type of glass is used in cookware, turbine engines, electronic equipment, and nose cones of guided missiles.

Stained Glass is made by adding chemical compounds to the molten glass. Each compound gives a different color to the glass depending upon the chemical nature. It is used to make decorative artwork and glass panes.

Crystal Glass is a fine quality glass. It is made from silica, lead oxide, soda, or potash. It is used to make wine glasses and other decorative ornaments.

Why glass is an eco-friendly material

Glass is an eco-friendly material because -

  1. Glass can be recycled many times without the loss of its original properties.
  2. The manufacture of new glass from glass that has been recycled will need less energy than new glass made using raw materials.
  3. Recycling glass reduces the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere.

Glass Formed Due to Forces of Nature

When the soil is rich in silica and the weather conditions are ideal, forces of nature create glass.

  1. Fulgurite Glass forms when cloud-to-ground lightning occurs.
  2. Obsidian Glass is a result of volcanic activity.
  3. Meteoritic Glass or Tektite glass forms due to the collision of a meteorite with the earth's surface.

Glass is an eco-friendly material that can be recycled and reused many times. It is chemically inert and can be safely used to manufacture cookware and dinnerware. It is versatile, and the properties of glass can be manipulated to manufacture products across many applications.


© 2017 Nithya Venkat


Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on July 08, 2019:

Thank you CorrinneMaldonado thank you for your visit and comment.

CorrinneMaldonado on July 08, 2019:

This article is so interesting thank u for breaking everything down for us.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on August 26, 2018:

Peggy Woods thank you. Stained glass panels are so beautiful, a colorful treat for the eyes.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on August 26, 2018:

This is a comprehensive article about the various uses of glass. It is interesting watching an artist blow glass and form it into a decorative object. I have a cousin who has made some beautiful stained glass panels. Thanks for writing this informative article.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on March 15, 2017:

Nell Rose thank you for your visit. It must have been a great experience to see how glass is being made. Colored glass vases look so beautiful, I love them.

Nell Rose from England on March 15, 2017:

I loved reading this, as I saw the process when I was in the Isle of Wight, and Island off England a couple of years ago. Boy was that hot in there! lol! the fans were going, people were drinking tons of water, and the guys making the glass looked cool as cucumbers! how I do not know! but it was great fun! and then we went into the adjoining shop and bought some colored glass vases and statues!

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on March 05, 2017:

Shyron E Shenko thank you for your visit and comments, much appreciated.

Shyron E Shenko from Texas on March 02, 2017:

Nihya, thank you for this information, some of it I knew some I did not.

Glass is so important, most people never think of it, all dishes/fiber optics (FIOS)/mirrors and telescopes would be forgotten. Glass is used in so many things besides the major use "windows."

Thank you for enlightening through the looking glass.

Blessings my friend.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on February 22, 2017:

teaches12345 glass is a great choice, thank you for your visit and comment.

Dianna Mendez on February 19, 2017:

We prefer drinking from glass because it is healthier for your body. I am glad to know it is eco-friendly for the environment. Didn't know it could be recycled without losing its properties time after time.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on February 06, 2017:

FlourishAnyway I am so glad you found this article interesting and informative. It is a good and safe idea to carry a tool to break out of the glass.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on February 06, 2017:

MsDora thank you for taking the time to read and am glad you learned more about glass through this hub.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on February 06, 2017:

Thanks for all this information on types of glass. I appreciate the manufacturing process of the windshield glass. We learn much from your article. Thanks.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on February 05, 2017:

AliciaC thank you for your visit and comment, I totally agree grass is impressive for many reasons.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on February 05, 2017:

Thank you for sharing so many interesting facts about the different types of glass, Vellur. Glass is a very impressive material.

FlourishAnyway from USA on February 05, 2017:

Well no wonder automobile glass is so hard to break! You see people using sledgehammers on the news to no avail. It worried me so much that I might be trapped in my car in water or something and unable to get out that I bought a special tool to carry in each vehicle that can break auto glass. This was a terrific hub -- very informative and I learned interesting information I never thought to ask.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on February 04, 2017:

ChitrangadaSharan thank you for your appreciation and comment. I hope students find this article useful.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on February 04, 2017:

billybuc thank you for your visit and am happy you found this article interesting.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on February 04, 2017:

always exploring thank you, the door must have been beautiful. Stained glass doors are vibrant and welcoming.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on February 04, 2017:

Dear Nellienna thank you for your visit and appreciation. The design that you made must have been beautiful, wish you had taken a photo. I will read about the artist and thank you for the introduction.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on February 04, 2017:

Genna East thank you, handcrafted glass is amazing. Stained glass artwork is beautiful, and the way the artisans handle it so skilfully is great to watch.

Genna East from Massachusetts, USA on February 04, 2017:

I always like learning new things, and this article was so interesting. I never knew how glass was made aside from the elements of sand that you mentioned, and watching glass blowers form the liquid into beautiful shapes with an expert touch and artistic eye. These artisans make it look so easy. I had no idea there were so many different types of glass.

Nellieanna Hay from TEXAS on February 04, 2017:

Dear Vellur! What a fascinating hub! So much information and education, as well as the sense of your enthusiasm for the subject! Thank you for sharing it! I’ve had the pleasure of seeing glass made at a little out-of-the-way studio in a small Texas town. I’ve been fascinated ever since.

I’ve always wanted to try my hand at stained glass. Sigh. Life isn’t long enough for all I’d love to to try! A relative had a house in Cincinnati years earlier with some stained glass windows and his daughter went to the site when the house was being torn down and acquired the windows. She gave her dad 2 of them and he hung them in the bedroom windows. So I copied the design and scaled it up to king-sized bed size and made an exact repllca of the window design into a huge pieced and quilted bedspread to match. That was as close as I have gotten to making stained glass. haha Wish I’d kept a picture of that! It was quite a project!

I wrote a hub a good while ago about a glass artist, Oiva Toikka. A kinswoman had collected a number of his pieces so I put an Oiva Toikka glass piece on my Christmas wish list the last year my beloved George's life and he asked what I’d like to receive - and he gave me one. It's doubly a treasure.

I just know you’d appreciate this artist’s work so, if I may, here’s my introduction to him:

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on February 04, 2017:

The video was really interesting as well as your article. Before I downsized to a smaller house, I had a stained glass door that was beautiful. Thanks for sharing..

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on February 04, 2017:

Well I hate to admit it, but I had no idea how glass was made, so thanks for this very informative article.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on February 04, 2017:

What an impressive and well researched article about glass!

You remind me of my science lessons of school. Really I didn't know so many details about Glass. This would be helpful to many especially young students.

Thanks for the education!

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