Ever wondered why glass bakeware can withstand scorching oven temperatures of 450 degrees without cracking or shattering, while regular glass can suddenly shatter into a million razor-sharp pieces with a sudden change in temperature?
The answer lies in the type of glass being used. While regular glass is hard, it is also extremely brittle and less tolerant to sudden temperature changes. But there are other specialized types that come with considerably improved properties (not all glass is the same, believe it or not). One particular type that stands out and is renowned for its exceptional quality and safety is borosilicate glass. So, what makes borosilicate glassware so unique?
Wondrous Boric Oxide (yay, science) Makes All the Difference
Unlike regular glass, which is composed of silicon dioxide, sodium oxide and calcium oxide, or – to put it simply – silica, soda and lime, the borosilicate glass composition also includes at least 5% boric oxide. This special ingredient was first added to the traditional glass mixture by German glassmaker Otto Schott in the late 19th century. By doing this, he produced what came to be known as borosilicate glass, or “boro”, as it is often called, notable for its high tolerance to heat and extreme resistance to severe temperature changes.
From Test Tubes to Nuclear Waste Storage to… the latest greatest glass water bottles
Had it not been for this monumental invention and its remarkable properties, we wouldn’t be enjoying the high-end stage lighting instruments of today, ranging from spotlights and LED lights to stroboscopes. Our cookware would keep cracking and breaking, and common scientific lab equipment such as stirring rods, beakers and test tubes would become seriously susceptible to chemical corrosion. Such is the durability of this glassware that it is even used for storage of nuclear waste!
Still not impressed? Read on and learn more about the three properties of borosilicate glass that make it extra special!
From Freezer to Oven and Back – Without a Single Crack
Borosilicate glass has excellent thermal qualities, as it does not expand like ordinary glass does. Thanks to its low coefficient of expansion, it has superior thermal shock resistance. In other words, it can handle sudden temperature changes – say, go from freezer to oven and back, and stay shatter-proof. It can withstand accidents that would break almost any other type of glassware. In rare cases when it does break, which only happens when exposed to extremely radical temperature fluctuations, it is more likely to crack than to shatter. And to be fair, it is much safer to handle larger chunks, than clean up shards of glass scattered all over your floor.
(Further reading: http://www.wisegeek.org/what-is-borosilicate-glass.htm)
Heat resistance – This type of glass also has a higher melting point, making it more heat resistant than regular glass. Due to its low thermal expansion coefficient, it is able to remain both clear and strong even when exposed to extremely high temperatures. It withstands a whopping working temperature of 515 degrees Fahrenheit and doesn’t melt until 550 degrees.
Chemical durability – This glass is also known for its extremely high chemical resistance. It is resistant to chemical corrosion, making it perfectly suitable for laboratory experiments. Borosilicate glass handles even the most volatile chemicals. The impressive property of this glass allows it to remain in a corrosive environment for millions of years and still be intact!
“Boro” is Your Go-to Material
Although temperatures required for the production of borosilicate are significantly higher than those used for regular glass making, it is still economic and relatively inexpensive to produce. As already mentioned, thanks to its durability, heat resistance and affordability, borosilicate has been the material of choice for a variety of technological applications, ranging from scientific apparatus to regular kitchenware.
So, next time you walk into the kitchen, pay closer attention to your cookware. There must be at least one cake pan, casserole or measuring cup that has been made of borosilicate; one that has been at your humble service for many faithful years.
Can’t get enough of this almost invincible material? Consider adding a reusable borosilicate glass water bottle to your super strong “boro” collection. This scratch-, impact- and stain-resistant glass container is non-porous, long-lasting and eco-friendly.
Get this beautifully designed glass product, fill it with tap water and raise it to the world!