It takes at least 10 years before you will become competent at quartz scientific glass blowing.
Quartz scientific glass blowing is a real art as well as a complex craft. This is the process by which some of the most durable, reliable and accurate pieces of scientific apparatus are made.
Any laboratory, whether it’s research, specialist medical, pharmaceutical, engineering or any other specialty, has to use glassware for experiments and verification. This apparatus needs to be made by specialist artisans who understand in detail how the glass will be used.
To create this super-efficient and reliable glassware, you have to start with a special raw material. In quartz scientific glass blowing the raw material is a substance commonly known as borosilicate glass. First developed in the 19th century in Germany by Otto Schott, a famous glass-maker, it became popularly known in the English-speaking world as Pyrex.
This trade name became applied to kitchenware as well as scientific glassware. The glass is made using quartz, aluminium oxide, and sodium carbonate from soda lime as well as boron through the compound boric oxide. The result is a highly heat-resistant glass that expands by only one third the rate of traditional glassware. Another advantage is that this glass also has a very low refractive index. In addition, the higher the proportion of boric oxide in the glass melt, the greater is the final scientific glass’s chemical resistance.
Such glass has found many applications, from thermal insulation on spacecraft to solar technology and radioactive waste disposal. Its main application, however, is in a modern laboratory, where all of the glassware is made of borosilicate. This is because it has an excellent optical clarity as well as thermal and chemical resistance.
The glass-blower is not just responsible for creating a piece of apparatus: he or she has to ensure that it will be suitable for any specific experimental use. The stresses of the job are great. This could include testing to glass up to temperatures of 1,400 degrees Celsius, incorporating other compounds – even precious stones such as sapphire – and even using mechanical methods to shape the glass into its final form.
The glass-blower has to understand the whole history of quartz scientific glass blowing techniques as well as modern uses for the final product. It takes a long time to learn all of this, and the first 10 years are just the beginning.
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