An engineer from the University of Missouri studies the glass pane after a test explosion.
A team of engineers from the University of Missouri and the University of Sydney in Australia is working to develop a blast-resistant glass that is lighter, thinner, and colorless, yet tough enough to withstand the force of an explosion, earthquake, or hurricanes winds.
Unlike today’s blast-resistant windows which are made of pure polymer layers, this new design is a plastic composite that has an interlayer of polymer reinforced with glass fibers-and it’s only a quarter-inch thick.
Engineers expect the new design will be comparable in cost to current blast-proof glass panes, but lighter in weight. At only a quarter-inch thick, this newly engineered composite would slip into standard commercial window frames, making it much more practical and cost-efficient to install.
To date, the glass has been tested with small-scale prototypes. “In future tests, the size of the glass panels will be increased by two to four times to determine the effect of size on blast resistance,” said Khanna.
The goal is to create blast-resistant panes as large as 48 by 66 inches-the standard General Services Administration window size for qualification blast testing-that can still be cost-effective. While dependent on results from upcoming tests, Khanna hopes this glass could become commercially available in three to four years.
The new blast-resistant glass could soon join blast resistant wall paper and hurriquake nails as affordable ways to strengthen buildings.
The secret to the design’s success is long glass fibers in the form of a woven cloth soaked with liquid plastic and bonded with adhesive. The pane is a layer of glass-reinforced clear plastic between two slim sheets of glass. Even the glue that holds it all together is clear. Think of it as a sandwich: the slim sheets of glass are the two slices of break; the liquid plastic and long glass fibers make up the crunchy peanut butter in the middle.
The glass fibers are typically 15 to 25 micrometers in diameter, about half the thickness of a typical human hair. The small size results in fewer defects and a decreased chance of cracking. The strong glass fibers also provide a significant reinforcing effect to the polymer matrix used to bind the fibers together. The more fibers used, the stronger the glass reinforcement. And while traditional blast-proof glass usually has a greenish ting, special engineering renders the polymer resin transparent to visible light.
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