Glass is all around us. It’s in our windows and in our oven doors. It’s in your refrigerator- holding juice, jam or maybe pickles. Even our lightbulbs are made of glass. Wait, don’t forget about the screens on our cell phones.
But what is glass?
Glass is weird! It is firm like other solids, but it has an atomic structure more like liquids. When you heat glass to very high temperatures, it can be shaped into a wide array of shapes and sizes, which is why you find jars and bottles in many shapes and sizes.
Glass feels solid, it looks solid, but it’s a very weird solid. It is known as an amorphous solid. This means that the atoms do not sit down in an orderly fashion, instead they are all in a random jumble, which is more like a liquid, and this happens because of how it is made. Glass is made by melting a material like sand, then cooling it down. The cooldown is so fast that the atoms can’t settle into a neat order before the material is solid again.
People have been making glass since ancient times, but current techniques are making glass even more useful. But not all glass is created by people. Lightning strikes can forge glass too, by transforming tiny bits of ash from volcanic eruptions into glass beads.
You may look twice at a bottle of ketchup now!
See if you can find a glassblower to watch how quickly liquid becomes solid, and how much heat is needed to do it! Also worth exploring is the American glass artist, Dale Chihuly.