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Glass and myths

There are hard core facts and then there are myths built by fragments of imagination. The truth about myths is that there is no tangible truth to it. In this blog, we’re going to bust a few myths associated with glass.

Certain people claim that stained glass windows in old churches are thicker at the bottom than at the top because glass flows slowly like a liquid. We’ve known this isn’t true for quite some time now; these windows are thicker at the bottom owing to the manufacturing of glass. Back during medieval times, a lump of molten glass was rolled, expanded, and flattened before being spun into a disc and cut into panes. These sheets were thicker around the edges and installed such that the heavier side was at the bottom.

But the myth that glass flows has persisted over time. Part of the reason is that glass is a super cooled viscous substance that was vitrified — a massive change in physical properties in which a first-order phases transition was avoided (unlike the standard solid/liquid/gas state of matter transitions).

As a liquid cools, it crystallizes, which increases its viscosity (a measure of its resistance to flow). But when glass cools, it remains stuck in a solid-like state with no crystallization. Essentially, the viscosity of super cooled liquid rises until it becomes an amorphous solid or glass, that we see in glass doors, glass windows etc.

As is the case with liquids, the atoms making up a glass are not arranged in any regular order — and that is where the analogy arises. Liquids flow because there are no strong forces holding their molecules together. Their molecules can move freely past one another, so that liquids can be poured, splashed around, and spilled. But, unlike the molecules in conventional liquids, the atoms in glasses are all held together tightly by strong chemical bonds. It is as if the glass were one giant molecule. This makes glasses rigid so they cannot flow at room temperatures. Thus, the analogy fails in the case of fluidity and flow.

Some of the other myths about glass are

-Glass is just for windows: There is so much more to glass. The possibilities are endless. There are different types of glass that have various uses in all fields from technology to architecture.

While windows are still a primary application for glass in your home, scientists are currently manipulating glass at the molecular level in the hopes of increasing the total capabilities of glass products. In addition, expanding glass’ capabilities may help us to solve some of the world’s toughest issues.

Scientists are currently experimenting with glass that makes high-speed communication possible through optical fiber. Innovations in glass products can also help turn solar energy into electricity and enable thinner, lighter, and more durable display devices.

-All glass is the same: This is certainly not true. Glass is glass, right? Well, modern science is actually rapidly breaking down that common myth. While it might not be widely known, we have been conducting glass research for over 160 years. These studies have led to numerous different patents in glass technology. For example, there is stained glass which is a coloured glass manufactured by adding metallic salts to it, and there is frosted glass which has a translucent surface achieved by a technique called acid etching. Similarly, numerous different types of glass exist.

-Glass doesn’t bend: While most types of glass are certainly not pliable, scientists have actually developed several glass products that are capable of bending. We now have optical fiber cable that it flexible enough to be stapled and bent around corners. We also have ultrathin glass solutions that are capable of being rolled like sheets of paper and flexed like wire.