From bathyspheric windows to expensive headphones, quartz glass has been a wonder material for decades.
It’s like virtual reality for the ears. For an outlay of just £35,000, you can have the musical experience of your life using headphones made of Carrera marble and quartz glass.
Forget about the £4 headphones from a discount shop. These are headphones that are able to transmit sounds free of distortions at loudnesses up to 126 decibels and at a range of frequencies between 8 Hz and 100,000 Hz.
These super headphones will do more than transmit the jewels of music, whether they are from the classics or the latest streetwise crooner. They can be used to fine-tune electronic components that use the audio spectrum of frequencies. Examples could be found in the automotive industry.
The eye-watering price of these headphones comes from all of the unique materials. They include ceramic electrodes coated with gold and copper wires plated in silver, and all of them are platinum-vaporised.
In addition, there are vacuum tubes that isolate the system from any surrounding or airborne noise and a range of power amps that work in improving energy-efficiency as well as reducing any sound loss.
If this seems very high-tech and contemporary, its origins go back several decades. Quartz glass has been used for windows in aircraft and spacecraft since the 1950s. But one of the first times such an innovation was employed was when American naturalist William Beebe used them in a steel submersible vessel.
The steel vessel weighed 5,400 pounds (2450kg) and was constructed in steel that was one and a half inches (about 4 centimetres) thick. The vessel had a viewing window made of quartz glass that was three inches (nearly 8 centimetres) thick to tolerate the pressures at such water depths.
The first descent attempt in the summer of 1930 managed to reach just 1,320 feet (402 metres), or about one quarter of a mile. In September 1932, it descended 2,200 feet (676 metres). This enable Beebe to observe and record the wonders of the deep West Atlantic. He described flying snails, called pteropods, and finely laced siphonophores.
No one bettered Beebe until the French marine explorer Jacques Cousteau later wandered the deep oceans.
The quartz windows remain in other marine vessels and aircraft and spacecraft. Future space explorers may use them to descend into the hydrocarbon – methane and ethane – sea on Titan, Saturn’s moon.
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