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Toughened or tempered glass is glass that has been processed by controlled thermal or chemical treatments to increase its strength compared with normal glass. Tempered glass is made by processes which create balanced internal stresses which give the glass strength. It will usually shatter into small fragments instead of sharp shards when broken, making it less likely to cause severe injury and deep lacerations.

As a result of its safety and strength, tempered glass is used in a variety of demanding applications, including passenger vehicle windows, glass doors and tables, refrigerator trays, as a component of bulletproof glass, for diving masks, and various types of plates and cookware.


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Toughened glass is physically and thermally stronger than regular glass. The greater contraction of the inner layer during manufacturing induces compressive stresses in the surface of the glass balanced by tensile stresses in the body of the glass. For glass to be considered toughened, this compressive stress on the surface of the glass should be a minimum of 69 MPa. For it to be considered safety glass, the surface compressive stress should exceed 100 MPa. The greater the surface stress, the smaller the glass particles will be when broken. It is this compressive stress that gives the toughened glass increased strength. This is because any surface flaws tend to be pressed closed by the retained compressive forces, while the core layer remains relatively free of the defects which could cause a crack to begin. However, the toughened glass surface is not as hard as annealed glass and is therefore somewhat more susceptible to scratching.To prevent this, toughened glass manufacturers may apply various coatings and/or laminates to the surface of the glass.

Any cutting or grinding must be done prior to tempering. Cutting, grinding, sharp impacts and sometimes even scratches after tempering will cause the glass to fracture.

The strain pattern resulting from tempering can be observed with polarized light or by using a pair of polarizing sun glasses.

The term toughened glass is generally used to describe fully tempered glass but is sometimes used to describe heat strengthened glass as both types undergo a thermal 'toughening' process.

There are two main types of heat treated glass, heat strengthened and fully tempered. Heat strengthened glass is twice as strong as annealed glass while fully tempered glass is typically four to six times the strength of annealed glass and withstands heating in microwave ovens. The difference is the residual stress in the edge and glass surface. Fully tempered glass in the US is generally rated above 65 MPa (9427 psi) in pressure-resistance while Heat Strengthened glass is between 40 and 55 megapascals (5801 and 7977 psi respectively).

It is important to note that the tempering process does not change the stiffness of the glass. Annealed glass deflects the same amount as tempered glass under the same load, all else being equal. But Tempered glass will take a larger load, and therefore deflect further at break.

Also see: Toughened Safety Glass - Bullet Proof Glass - Anti Bandit Glass - Laminated Safety Glass


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