Borosilicate – A Masterpiece of Resistance
April 13, 2023
From the frontiers of space exploration to our everyday cookware, from vaccines conditioning to precision optics and nuclear waste storage, the range of uses for borosilicate glass is almost endless. Behind this mysterious name lies the most resistant glass of all. Prized by engineers as well as designers for its exceptional technical properties, borosilicate offers the perfect combination of strength, aesthetic and versatility.
Workers at Schott Glass, Circa 1900
A glass born in Jena, Germany
Borosilicate was invented in the late 19th century in Jena by Friedrich Otto Schott, a German chemist and glass technologist. Schott pushed the limits of glass investigation by exploring the links between chemical composition and functional properties. His work enabled many scientific advances in microscopy and optical astronomy among others. In 1915, an American company called Corning developed its Pyrex brand which became synonymous with borosilicate glass in many countries.
Scientist Using Early Forms of Laboratory Glass
An outstanding range of technical properties
Borosilicate glass is a type of glass that contains boron trioxide, which gives it a very low coefficient of thermal expansion, three times lower than ordinary glass. This means that the glass can withstand extreme temperatures without changing its structure, strength and other technical properties. Compared to other types of glass, it also has superior optical clarity and light transmission, which is the reason why it can be used in precision optics. Its chemical and mechanical resistance is unsurpassed, making it suitable for extremely demanding and sensitive applications.
Glassworker Forming Hemera Glass
Pyrex Laboratory Equipment
Tom Dixon's Decorative Use of Borosilicate Glass
Borosilicate and light, a perfect symbiosis
The way borosilicate interacts with light is quite unique, and the fact that it can be easily shaped in a variety of ways and thicknesses, while maintaining a very smooth surface, adds to its appeal to lighting designers. Voltra was inspired by borosilicate glass for its Hemera collection of cordless lamps. This collection is an ode to Hemera, the ancient Greek goddess of daylight whose radiance covered and dispersed the dark dome of night with each dawn. Composed of two veils of borosilicate glass, the dark inner one symbolizing night, the brighter outer one symbolizing day, the lamp diffuses a unique intimate light. Behind its apparent fragility, it borrows its exteme solidity from borosilicate glass.
Detail of Hemera Mikros in Natural Brass