Lead glass is a chemical composition of manganese, soda, silica, and lime. The word “lead” comes from the fact that lead oxide (Pbo) is added to make a composition of a minimum of 30%. It is used to make decorative glass objects. In its composition lead oxide is used in place of calcium oxide and potassium oxide instead of all or most of sodium oxide. The lead used in the making of the lead glass provides more crystals stability and weight. As more lead is added to the level of 65% it can be used as a shield against radiation as it can absorb gamma rays and any other form of harmful radiation. Though, with higher amounts it lowers the melting point and decreases the hardness giving a soft surface.
The glass is characterized by a higher refractive index of n=1.7 meaning that it sparkles brightly. The refractive index is increased to the level it is in owing to the high amount of lead as its component. It makes lead glass clearer and brighter. The glass is strong to the level where the glass can be blown a human hand can be used to cut as the lead crystals are handmade. The glass has a lot of brilliance and very sharp facets. Due to its strength the glass is not harmful to human beings.
Historically, it was first used in Mesopotamia, named the birthplace of glass industry as early as 1400BC. It also occurred in China in Han period (206 BC -220AD) to make jade, the ritual object and jewelry. In Europe, it was used as base colored glasses in mosaic design, enamel, and stained-glass painting and in imitating gems.
The components of lead glass are 48% silica sand, 24% potash and 28% lead. The silica sand and potash are heated together in a furnace to 1200 degrees. The red lead is introduced in a fast current of air (oxidation) to full oxidation and mixed together to obtain molten lead glass. The melt is poured onto a mold to create the basic shape of object. Hollow portions are made from blowing the glass immediately before the glass begins to harden then allowed to cool slowly over a period between two to sixteen hours. Finally, the facets are cut using a glass cutter for drawing the pattern with red lead and turpentine. Then, the powered cutting makes the uneven design and finishes surfaces are made by hand as mentioned earlier (Robinson).
The lead glass are made by several companies including Baccarat in France, Royal Bierley in France, Roya Leerdam Crystal in Netherlands, Mikasa in Japan, and Steuben in United States. Because of its strength, Lead glass can be employed in facilities where protection from x-ray radiation is required. There are various industries that have employed glass as a common application for X-ray radiation protection.
Lead Glass is used in the medical industry. The glass has been used in X-ray observation equipments, X-ray TV detectors and in electron beam/plasma generators. It protects doctors and their support staff from the X-ray radiation without glass discoloration or interference in the quality of viewing.
Lead glass is used in industries. It has been used in industries for instance in airports to protect people from luggage inspection machines and from radiation testing equipments in industrial processes.
Lead glass has been used to make windows used in radioactive storage stations observation windows.
In building and glass use technology sustainability should be the cornerstone of environmental consciousness as misuse can cause harm to the environment. Over use means that natural resources will be depleted first to the glass. The processing also has to observe proper balance of components to achieve a thorough oxidation process to prevent from release of carbon monoxide to the atmosphere as it can lead to destruction of the ecosystem. A glass too when used to make green houses leads to the emission of green house gases and affect human health. Greta care has to be observed during processing (Carroon 55).
As had been alluded the glass has been applied medically to make x-ray machines to make shielding material for doctors and in industrial use it has been used to make industrial protective material to make windows in laboratories, nuclear fuel development plants, radioactive storage stations, and reprocessing plants. Moreover safety lenses and protective screens for radiation testing equipment and for electron beam systems and plasma generations (Wallenberger and Bingham 485).
The technology has been used all over the world to design and applied in architecture to make buildings like the sports and Leisure Centre Gaalery in Sint Claude, France and Selgas Cano Architecture Office.
The chemical component of crystal glass on the other hand is composed of similar chemical components only that the lead material is slightly lower in quantity at about 24%.
It is weaker than lead glass as it can break easily and there this informs its applicability.
It terms of refraction it has the ability of n=1.5 meaning that it sparkles less than lead glass. It is very delicate; therefore, it can only be cut using a machine to prevent it from breaking or cracking. The machines used are of high precision during the cutting process and can, therefore, protect the glass and can, therefore, be described as too brittle.
In finishing options the glass the glass can be applied in mosaic design, making toilet shelves, privacy walling as it can blur vision, and making tiles for toilet walls, conference rooms, lobbies, private offices, partitions, exterior windows, verandas retail environments and any other decorations (MacKay 256).
To make the crystal glass components include 54-65% silicon oxide, 18-38% lead oxide, and 13-15% soda/potash. The other components can be used to alter color. With less than 24% lead oxide it could be brittle to and therefore, easy to break but when it contains more than 32% it is difficult to blow and shape into form. The mixture is then heated to between 2012 to 2091 degrees. The molten substance is gathered onto a blown on a pipe forming a large tear-drop shape and rotated. The top is smoothened and the rough area is cracked off by scribing a line around with a diamond cutter. The glass is then heated on a fine gas flame. The sharp edges are flattened to an even height using a carborundum wheel powered disk tor emery belt. Then, it is painted and decorated (Norton et al 154).
It has been used since the 17th century when it was discovered by an Englishman George Ravenscroft but it was used by the Roman Empire since the first century before gaining popularity across Europe and finding particular strong footing in Venice as the city was known by its beautiful glass and held the reputation as a premier glass making centre during the 13-15th century.
Corporate have been advocating for responsible use of the material and recycling in case one needs to get rid of old material at places where they can give to recycling agencies for reuse. Overuse can result too in depletion of natural resources hence one has to use minimum material and prevent any breakage as this might need replacement, and the cycle goes on.
In contemporary society, the glass has been used to switchable glass as it has increased savings on energy and electric glass by employing electro chromatic technology to exchange between transparency and a semi-transparent state by using voltage.