There are many materials that define a chemistry research laboratory, but if there is one material above all else, it’s glass. For centuries now, we’ve known how crucial this substance has been to science. From the early years of what could be recognised as modern-day scientific discovery where scientists would often make their own glassware; up until today, when you can buy any kind or shape of lab equipment imaginable from specialist scientific glassware manufacturers.
Glass is the perfect material for scientific vessels because it’s malleable, durable, chemically resistant and easily sterilised. Crucially though, what makes glass so suitable as a material to use in science experiments is that it remains transparent — meaning scientists can easily observe reactions.
The Art Of Scientific Glassblowing
Scientific glassblowing is a fascinating and highly specialised field of work. It’s used for industry, science, art and design purposes all around the world!
The techniques that glass blowers use are similar to those of paperweight and bead makers. Typically, the molten glass starts as a rod or tube, which is then heated by an open flame in order for it to be manipulated. The work is typically carried out by hand, but machines may sometimes be used when producing certain items or parts.
Scientific glass blowers have to spend years perfecting their craft. They’ll learn different techniques along the way to make sure they’re not just a “glass smith” but an expert craftsman of scientific equipment.
The History Of Glass Blowing
The history of glass blowing can be traced back over 2000 years to the 1st century BC. It’s believed that it was originally developed in Syria or Egypt, where they used molten sand as an intermediary material between hot air and cold water when forming objects with a blowpipe (a tube through which air is blown). The process would have started by heating chunks of raw natural materials such as quartzite. Then shaping them into small balls before connecting one end closed using clay-based glue.
By the Middle Ages, glass blowing had spread across most of Europe, and techniques were getting more advanced. Venice and the island of Murano were considered to be two of the most important centres for glass blowing around this time. Venetian glassmakers produced Cristallo, a very fine and clear form of Venitian Glassware created using the mould-blowing technique.
The industry remained largely unchanged for several hundred years as the existing manual techniques were improved. It wasn’t until 1820 that a process for mechanically pressing hot glass was patented. The next few decades brought lots of innovation, with many new automated techniques being introduced.
Supporting Scientific Discovery
Many incredible and important inventions have been aided by glassblowing. The most famous is no doubt Edison’s light bulb, but there have also been many other technological innovations such as televisions or even radios!
Scientists at Oxford University used custom laboratory glassware for their experiments when they invented the lithium-ion battery.
Glassblowing has also played a key part in the development of fibre optics, which are crucial in our digitally connected world.
What is Scientific Glassblowing – Summary
Now you know the history of glassblowing and why it is so important. Glass blowing has been around for centuries, but there’s still more to uncover about the art form and its impact on science. If you want to learn more or have any other questions, feel free to get in touch with our team.