High-tech Glass

New glass materials for design and architecture

form 234
September/October 2010


Birkhäuser (Basel)

The Egyptians were using glass to make vessels and jewelry as early as 1.500 BC. Nowadays glass has far more diverse applications, and moreover this traditional material is making waves through numerous new developments.

Today, for example, glass surfaces have coatings generated using nanotechnology that lend them multifunctional properties. Water- and dirt-resistant facades are now almost stand-ard. Among the latest developments is Pro.Glass™ Barrier UV, an optically neutral, highly effective protective coating against UV light by Nanogate. It can be used to protect sensitive artworks and objects from ultraviolet light, and in addition the coatings make the glass scratchproof and easier to clean.

Glass also plays a key role in the exploitation of regenerative energy sources: Solar thermal facilities bundle sunrays with the help of parabolic mirrors and use the heat created to generate energy – the best-known major project in this field is the planned Desertec facility in North Africa. The receiver tube on each of the parabolic mirror systems’ focal lines is subjected to particularly extreme differences in temperature, which previously presented designers with major problems. The company Schott has now found a solution: its new receiver is made of a coated metal absorber tube placed in a vacuum-tight glass tube. In order to balance out the different expansion coefficients of glass and metal, Schott has created a special kind of glass that displays similar thermal expansion to metal. In addition, a bellows compensates for the different lengthways expansion of the glass casing and absorber tube and connects the components without tension.

Alongside the functional aspects, the formal qualities of glass are of course also important to designers. In facade construction, curved and arched glass shapes are increasingly appearing. To this end, glass specialists such as Döring Glas have in recent years advanced glass processing techniques, sheets can be bent into conical, cylindrical or spherical shapes. And of course, the omnipresent topic of sustainability is influencing glass manufacturers. With its Bio-Glass, the American company Coverings Etc, for example, has demonstrated that glass products with high-quality aesthetic value can also be made from waste glass. As neither additives nor colorants are used in the energy-efficient production process, the glass can be fully recycled. This year, the eco-material already won some awards including the Red Dot Award and Silver Cradle to Cradle certification.


image source: Coverings etc