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Fun Fact January 15, 2020

15 January 2020


Did you ever wonder how glass is made?  Now you see it, now you don’t. You can find glass wherever you look: most rooms in your home will have a glass window and, if not that, perhaps a glass mirror or a glass light bulb.  Glass is a bit of a riddle. It’s hard enough to protect us, but it shatters pretty easily. It’s made from opaque sand, yet it’s completely transparent. And it behaves like a solid material, but it’s also a sort of weird liquid in disguise! Glass is one of the world’s oldest and most versatile human-created materials. As I mentioned 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 or 3090°F.  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.  Although most glass is made from sand, basically anything that melts can be made into glass. You just have to cool off a molten material before its molecules have time to realign into what they were before being melted.


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