In many modern offices and homes, glass is used both as a structural, security, and decorative material. Glass may be used as windows, doors, balustrades, or even floors in such facilities. This makes you wonder, how could a material so fragile be used to form structures that have to withstand a massive amount of exposure and abuse?
Well, this is not the ordinary glass used to make your drinking glass, glassware, or display cabinet. This is toughened or tempered glass, a type of safety glass that is subjected to thermal or chemical treatments when it is made. These treatments considerably strengthen the material, which makes it vastly more durable than normal glass.
Owing to its manufacturing process, tempered glass is thermally and physically stronger than regular glass. That means it can withstand temperatures, blows, impacts, and vibrations that can shatter standard glass. The manufacturing process induces compressive stresses on the surface of the glass that are balanced by the tensile stresses in the body of the material. Before the glass is sold, it must be subjected to a tough test. The material must have a surface compressive stress rating that should exceed 100 megapascals (MPa).
Cutting and grinding is done before tempering the glass. Performing these tasks after the tempering process will cause the glass to break. Once the glass has been heat-treated at 720 degrees Celsius, it is cooled with forced airflows to solidify. The cool temperature rapidly compresses the material’s molecules, making strong and durable.
Alternatively, manufacturers may use a chemical toughening process instead of using heat treatment. This involves the surface layer of the glass (around 0.1 millimetres thick) being subjected to compression via ion exchange of sodium and potassium ions. The compression process is done by immersing the glass into molten potassium nitrate.
Additionally, the high compressive stress of tempered glass makes the material safer in the event that it is subjected to enough force that can fracture it. How? Well, the glass shatters into small granules when broken. These granular particles are less likely to injure someone. Regular glass, on the other hand, produces razor-sharp shards that can seriously cut someone.
Due to its unique properties, tempered glass is used in many applications, especially if safety is crucial aspects to be considered. For example, they are typical materials that are used for the back and side windows of auto mobiles. Additionally, tempered glass, because of its heat-resistant qualities, is also used as a primary material in the manufacture of cooking vessels such as baking pans, pots, and pans. Brands that use tempered glass for these vessels include Pyrex, Arc International, and Corelle.
It is not surprising, therefore, that tempered glass is used to manufacture walls, doors, windows, fences, and other structures that need to resist massive impacts.
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