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Chapter 58

Properties and

58.1 Physical properties

58.1.1Density, thermal expansion
coefficient, thermal conductivity,
emissivity and selectivity of coated

The physical properties of float glass produced in

Europe do not vary significantly between manufacturers and can be taken as standard values according
to BS EN 572-2. Float glass produced in other parts
of the world may vary in colour but the physical
properties are very similar. The properties are
summarised in Table 58.1.
Rolled plate glass and drawn sheet glass have
slightly higher densities because the viscosity required
for those processes is higher, but this is unlikely to
be significant in design.

a characteristic bending strength of about 45 MPa

(not a design value). When broken, cracks run as
far as they are driven by the applied force, which
may be low, such as a thermal stress, or high such
as from impact or wind pressure, in which case the
cracks branch and propagate to the edges of the
pane (Fig. 58.1).
Heat-strengthened glass, produced to BS EN
1863, has a finely balanced level of residual stress,
such that its characteristic bending strength is at

58.2 Mechanical properties

58.2.1 Patterns of breakage of glass

The three commonly used heat-treatment conditions

of soda lime glass are most clearly distinguished by
the manner in which they break.
Annealed glass, which is the standard condition
in which it is manufactured, stocked and cut, has
Table 58.1 Physical properties of float glass


Youngs modulus (e)
Poissons ratio
Specific heat capacity
Thermal expansion coefficient
Thermal conductivity
Refractive index
(average for visible wavelengths)

2500 kg/m3
70 GPa
720 J/kgK
9 10-6 K-1
1 W/mK

Fig. 58.1 Breakage pattern of annealed glass.



Fig. 58.3 Stress concentration at crack tip.

Fig. 58.2 Breakage pattern of toughened glass.

least 70 MPa (not a design value), but propagating

cracks do not branch so that often fragments or
islands are produced, which could become displaced from the broken pane. The residual stress of
heat-strengthened glass ensures that any cracks will
propagate to the edges, where compressive stress
along the edge often causes the crack to branch by
180 and run parallel for a short distance before
breaking out.
Toughened glass, also known as fully tempered,
whether heat soaked or not, should break into a
large number of roughly cubic fragments (Fig. 58.2).
The size of the fragments is related to the thickness
by the standards BS EN 12150 and BS EN 14179.
For example, 10 mm glass should break into not
less than 40 fragments in a 50 mm square within
5 minutes of breaking.

58.2.2Strength of glass

Glass has a high theoretical strength (over 30 GPa)

because of strong bonds between its molecules but,
as we discussed when introducing the concepts of
fracture mechanics in Chapter 4, the practical strength

is determined by brittle fracture originating at

surface defects. The absence of crystalline structure
prevents plastic flow on a macro scale and so glass
exhibits virtually perfect linear elastic behaviour
until brittle fracture occurs.
When glass is tested to destruction it is common
to obtain results considerably higher than the design
stress, or even the characteristic stress, because the
surface condition of the test sample is in a better
condition than we can assume it will be after many
years in service.
On the surface of a glass plate there will be a
range of flaws such as scratches or pits, and for the
purposes of fracture mechanics, flaws are idealised
as semi-elliptical cracks normal to the surface, of
depth a, with a radius at the tip r (Fig. 58.3). The
stress at the tip of the crack is represented by the
stress concentration expression (we first came across
this as equation 4.5 in Chapter 4):

stip = 2sn(a/r)


The radius is usually taken to be ~10 mm, and

critical depths of flaws in annealed glass are much
less than a millimetre, depending on the applied
It is useful to combine the severity of a surface
flaw with the applied stress when considering the
conditions for brittle fracture, and Griffith introduced the stress intensity factor, KI:

KI = Ysn(pa)


(where Y is a geometrical factor ranging from 0.56

to 1.12 according to the shape of the crack). The
fracture toughness of a material can then be rep
resented by a critical stress intensity factor, KIc, and
any anticipated service condition compared with
that limit (i.e. the Griffith failure criterion):



Properties and performance

The critical stress intensity factor for soda lime glass

is around 0.75 MPa m. By way of comparison,
the fracture toughness KIc, for mild steel is of the
order of 100 MPa m.

58.2.3Static fatigue

Soda lime glass is particularly prone to a type of

stress corrosion cracking known as static fatigue
that makes it weaker under continuous loading than
under short-term load. Although glass is brittle, it
is actually more resistant to a short-term load like
the impact of a football than a long-term load like
the pressure of water in a fish tank. Water molecules
from the environment can diffuse down a crack in
the glass. At the very tip of a crack, if the individual bonds between atoms that are resisting its
progress are under enough tension, water molecules
can attach themselves and break the bonds, allowing
the crack to grow minutely. This process of slow
crack growth can start and stop with variations in
loading, and can go undetected for long periods.
The strength of glass is found to be highest when
measured rapidly because surface flaws under stress
will grow, so the strength is usually expressed as
the short-term strength or sixty-second strength.
Any value of glass strength that is not qualified
with the duration of loading should be treated with
When the pre-existing flaws grow slowly by static
fatigue, their stress intensity increases at an accelerating rate until KI KIc and the glass cracks
visibly, and usually audibly. There is a threshold
stress intensity, KI0, below which a flaw will not
grow, which is around 0.25 MPa m. Some glass
design methods use a factor of between 2.6 and 3.0
to reduce the short-term strength when considering
long-term loads.
The relationship between strengths of glass
measured over different time periods of steadily
increasing load until failure was represented by
Charles (1958), in his classic work on why glass is
weak when loaded for long duration, with the
following relationship:

sf2 = sf1(t1/t2)1/n

where n is a material factor, found to be 16 for

float glass in air, and t1 and t2 are the times to
failure in seconds.

58.2.4Post-breakage characteristics of
laminated glass combinations

Laminated glass can consist of any combination of

processed glass types with a choice of interlayers
with different properties, as described in Chapter 57.

Fig. 58.4 Breakage pattern of laminated annealed


The following combinations are all described

assuming a typical PVB interlayer.


This is by far the most common combination

and is usually described just by the generic term
laminated glass, and it is the standard material for
vehicle front windscreens. If it is broken by a softbody impact, a pattern of cracks like a spiders
web is formed (Fig. 58.4). Radial cracks caused by
bending stress and membrane stress in the glass
panes are crossed by circumferential cracks where
the triangular shards are subjected to bending stress.
Hard-body impact may create a small star of cracks
or a Hertzian cone if the projectile is fast moving.
The cracks in each layer of the laminate tend to
follow similar paths if the breaking force is high,
but can deviate when the applied load is less. Thermal fracture from edge damage to laminated glass
will often break both plies from the same location,
with the individual cracks following different paths.
If the edge is undamaged, thermal stress may generate

cracks from different places in the two plies, or only
in one ply.

Heat strengthened/heat strengthened

This combination tends to behave similarly to

annealed/annealed because of the similar breakage
characteristics of the glass types. This gives the
laminated combination a good degree of stability
and the capacity to carry small loads once both
layers of glass are broken. It is commonly used for
glass floors, particularly for outside applications
where thermal shock resistance is required and the
breakage pattern similar to that of annealed glass
would be preferred to that of toughened glass.


This combination offers high ultimate strength but

little residual strength after both leaves are broken.
When toughened glass fragments it is able to resist
compressive loads, but the small particles do nothing
to transfer tensile forces. Therefore, a broken panel


can only resist bending by virtue of the tensile

capacity of the interlayer and tends to fold easily,
especially when warm. The tear resistance of a
normal PVB interlayer is rarely adequate to support
a broken panel on point fixings.

Toughened/heat strengthened

This combination is popular in bolted, or point

fixed glazing systems, where toughened/toughened
would be at risk of tearing away from the attachment points, particularly in inclined applications.
The toughened glass provides high bending strength
when the panel is intact, and the heat-strengthened
glass provides large chunks and unbroken zones to
lock onto the fittings after the panel is broken.

Charles RJ (1958). Static fatigue of glass, II. Journal of
Applied Physics, 29 (No. 11), 15541560.