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Breaking the Mould: 6 Key Glass Technology Innovations

Glass is a key material that has been used for centuries for cultural and domestic purposes, and more recently in architecture, the tech industry, and interior design. Here’s a look at some of the ground-breaking innovations in glass technology, and how glass could potentially be used in the future. 

The origins of glassmaking

The oldest glass objects are thought to have been made in Mesopotamia and Egypt, and date from around 3500 BC. They were created by heating sand and other aggregates, and then shaped with tools into objects such as bowls, drinking vessels, or jewellery. Glass was very much a luxury item and reserved for the very richest. 

The art of glassblowing was subsequently developed by the Phoenecians around 50 BC, which enabled more complex shapes such as bottles and bowls to be created. Despite this, the art of glassmaking did not progress very rapidly until the 1800s, when scientists better came to understand the properties of silica that is the basis of glass making.

Chemical formulas were developed for soda lime silica, which paved the way for glass making on an industrial scale. The ‘float glass’ process for producing large panes of glass was also developed, and glass came to be used more frequently for windows, door panels, and other architectural features.

Innovations in glass technology

One of the most advanced glass making technologies today is smart glass, which has a coating engineered to allow the glass to go from transparent to opaque in response to an electronic signal. This technology is used to enable building facades to adjust to different lighting conditions, and also for privacy control in windows and glass partitions.

Energy efficient glass

Low-E or energy efficient glass is designed to reduce the amount of heat that escapes from buildings by reflecting the heat inwards. A special coating is applied to the surface of the glass, which traps heat but still allows the light to pass through. This reduces energy costs and helps to lower carbon emissions.

Solar glass

Solar glass integrates photovoltaic technology into glass surfaces such as building facades and windows, allowing it to generate solar energy that can be used as a sustainable power source. 

Self-cleaning glass

One of the drawbacks of exterior glass or shower glass is that it requires frequent cleaning to keep it looking its best and to maintain light and transparency levels. Self-cleaning glass has a coating that is designed to break down dirt. It is activated by environmental conditions such as sunlight and rain.

Flexible glass

One of the challenges of glass is its rigidity and relative fragility compared to other materials. However, an innovative new type of flexible glass allows for the glass to flex and bend without compromising its structural integrity. This type of glass has already been used to produce foldable smartphones and in architectural design.

Ultra-thin glass

An ultra lightweight glass has been developed for use in portable digital devices that allows for greater sleekness and efficiency of design.

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