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Quartz glass

Quartz glass (or silica glass) is one of the most unusual materials utilised in industry and research. Many advanced technologies even have this material to thank for their breakthrough, including chip production, optical data transmission using optical fibres or modern precision optics and laser technology. Indiscernible in appearance from conventional glass, quartz glass possesses in part significantly different properties. These are, in principle, a consequence of its extremely high purity: pure quartz glass consists exclusively of silicon dioxide (SiO2). The realisable degree of purity is comparable to that of semiconductor materials. Quartz glass is therefore one of the purest of engineering materials that have yet found their way into industrial applications, and the combination of its X-ray amorphous structure leads to a series of interesting characteristics:

High temperature resistance enables use in applications up to approx. 1400 °C. The thermal coefficient of expansion is approx. 0.5 x 10-6/K, more than twenty times lower than steel. This results in an extremely high resistance to temperature shock. Quartz glass is also chemically practically inert. It can only be attacked by a few media, especially hydrofluoric acid. Its spectral permeability makes it particularly interesting for many applications. It ranges from deep UV to the medium IR range. The high optical permeability means that a view through a quartz glass block with a layer thickness of 10 metres is like looking through a normal window pane.

The semiconductor industry is the most important customer for quartz glass products. The conjunction of extremely high purity and silicon melt and Si chips play a decisive role in this respect. Modern communication technology with its optical fibres has also led to a rise in the demand for quartz glass. The low thermal expansion means that precision components for UV lithography are made of quartz glass, along with components for aerospace applications. Less sophisticated from an engineering point of view, but important in terms of the number of applications, is use of quartz glass in UV lamps (e.g. sun beds).

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