How Everything Works
How Everything Works How Everything Works

Question 643

What is the chemical formula for glass? — GL, Birmingham, AL
Glass isn't a simple molecule that can be represented by a normal chemical formula. It's a network solid in which the atoms are joined in one gigantic non-crystalline structure. In effect, a piece of glass is a single enormous molecule. Window glass is called soda-lime-silica glass and consists mostly of silicon, oxygen, sodium, and calcium atoms. Silicon and oxygen are considered to be network-forming atoms and bind to one another in long atomic linkages that form the backbone of the glass. The sodium and calcium atoms are added to terminate the linkages. This network termination softens the glass, lowers its softening and melting temperatures, and generally makes the glass easier to work with. Harder glasses such as lead "crystal" replace the sodium and calcium with other materials (e.g. lead oxide) that don't weaken the glass as much and produce harder or stronger glasses. Pyrex cookware contains boron instead of sodium and calcium, and is a borosilicate glass.

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