Search form

Glass And Sand Relationship Revised

Glass manufacturing was once upon a time considered as a prized art form before it became a common industry. Sand is an integral part of commercial glass manufacturing and we are going to look at the main reasons why.

It’s been said and presented as an interesting fact that glass is made from sand. Does glass really have its origins in sand or is it just another interesting half truth like 85% of our brains are made of water. The materials used to make the different types of glass may vary but sand is definitely central to the general glass making process.

During the pre-float glass era large panes had to be cast on an iron tray and had to be ground and polished which was a very time-consuming process. The glass that we generally refer to is soda-lime glass. This variety of glass is definitely the most common. The main ingredient as far as soda-lime glass is concerned is silica and this is found in great abundance in sand. Quartz which is another substance found at the sea-side along with SIO2 form the basis of glass production. When we talk about sand we are aware about the fact that sand is formed from a variety of rocks powdered down by the wind and rain over the course of years. Sand along the non-tropical and coastal areas however constitutes mainly of silica and quartz. The second most common type of sand found in areas like the Caribbean is rich in calcium carbonate. This type of sand however cannot be used for the glass making process. Float glass manufacturing later incorporated automated rollers but this process still did not get any easier. In spite of the various advances in technology it is in sand that the origins of glass can be traced back.

There are cases where silica can form a type of glass by itself when sand is hit by lightning. Formation of glass in this manner requires temperatures of at least 1800 degrees. The fusion of silica grains in the sand occurs only at such high temperatures. Naturally occurring glass of this kind has been used since the stone ages for making tools and weapons. Technology has flourished over the ages and now is used in windowpanes and green houses. This type of natural glass formation is quite irregular and any production process that involves lightning is quite hazardous. Glass has under gone a lot of experimentation in order to enhance its properties. Tin is typically used in the manufacture of float glass. Iron is added in order to absorb infrared radiation. Cerium (IV) oxide is responsible for absorbing UV radiation. The soda-lime glass production process these days involves melting silica in a controlled environment along with other materials that enhances its properties. The soda part of soda-lime glass is obtained from sodium carbonate which is added to lower the point at which the silica melts. Lowering the melting point in this manner has the unwanted side effect of making the glass soluble in water. To counteract this calcium oxide is added thus making the glass more durable in order to sustain in rainy and snowy conditions.

Glass manufacturing is an ancient craft and glass blowing can be dated back to 2500B.C. Large glass windows remained an expensive luxury until well into the modern era. This was mainly down to the production methods which made producing anything bigger than a windowpane a very difficult task. Glass is used everywhere as containers, insulators, reinforcing fiber, lenses and decorative art these days and sand is integral to the standard process of glass production.