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A vandalized telephone booth with toughened glass

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, as a component of bulletproof glass, for diving masks, and various types of plates and cookware.



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.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]

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.


Safety approval markings on an automobile vent window made for a Chrysler car by PPG

Toughened glass is used when strength, thermal resistance and safety are important considerations. The most commonly encountered tempered glass is that used for side and rear windows in automobiles, used for its characteristic of shattering into small cubes rather than large shards. Tempered glass is also used in buildings for unframed assemblies (such as frameless doors), structurally-loaded applications, and any other application that would become dangerous in the event of human impact. Toughened glass is used in some cell phones such as the Apple iPhone and LG Secret because of its scratch-resistant properties.

Rim tempered indicates a limited area such as the rim of the glass or plate is tempered and is popular in food service.


Cooking and baking

Some forms of tempered glass are used for cooking and baking. Manufacturers include Pyrex, Corelle, and Arc International.


Toughened glass is made from annealed glass via a thermal tempering process. The glass is placed onto a roller table, taking it through a furnace that heats it above its annealing point of about 720 °C. The glass is then rapidly cooled with forced air drafts while the inner portion remains free to flow for a short time.

An alternative chemical process involves forcing a surface layer of glass at least 0.1mm thick into compression by ion exchange of the sodium ions in the glass surface with the 30% larger potassium ions, by immersion of the glass into a bath of molten potassium nitrate. Chemical toughening results in increased toughness compared with thermal toughening, and can be applied to glass objects of complex shape.[1]


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 above 65 MPa while Heat Strengthened glass is between 40 and 55 MPa.

It is important to note that while the strength of the glass does not change the deflection, being stronger means that it can deflect more before breaking.[citation needed] Annealed glass deflects less than tempered glass under the same load, all else being equal.


Toughened glass must be cut to size or pressed to shape before toughening and cannot be re-worked once toughened. Polishing the edges or drilling holes in the glass is carried out before the toughening process starts. Because of the balanced stresses in the glass, damage to the glass will eventually result in the glass shattering into thumbnail-sized pieces. The glass is most susceptible to breakage due to damage to the edge of the glass where the tensile stress is the greatest, but shattering can also occur in the event of a hard impact in the middle of the glass pane or if the impact is concentrated (for example, striking the glass with a point). Using toughened glass can pose a security risk in some situations because of the tendency of the glass to shatter completely upon hard impact rather than leaving shards in the window frame[2].

The surface of tempered glass does exhibit surface waves caused by contact with the rollers. This waviness is a significant problem in manufacturing of thin film solar cells [3].


The first patent on tempered glass was held by chemist Rudolph A. Seiden, born in 1900 in Austria.[citation needed]

Though the underlying mechanism was not known at the time, the effects of "tempering" glass have been known for centuries. In the 1640s, Prince Rupert of Bavaria brought the discovery of what are now known as "Prince Rupert's Drops" to the attention of the King. These are teardrop shaped bits of glass which are produced by allowing a molten drop of glass to fall into a bucket of water, thereby rapidly cooling it. The teardrops were often used by the King as a practical joke.[citation needed]


  1. ^ H.G. Pfaender (1996) Schott guide to glass. Chapman and Hall ISBN 0 41262060 X
  2. ^ O'Block, Robert L.; Donnermeyer, Joseph F.; Doeren, Stephen E. (1991). Security and Crime Prevention. Butterworth-Heinemann. "The security value of tempered glass, however, is questionable. Although it will resist a brick or rock, it is susceptible to sharp instruments such as ice picks or screwdrivers. When attacked in this manner, tempered glass tends to crumple easily and quietly, leaving no sharp edges." 
  3. ^ W. Walecki, F. Szondy, "Integrated quantum efficiency, topography, and stress metrology for solar cell manufacturing: real space approach" , Proc. SPIE, Vol. 7048, 704804 (2008); doi:10.1117/12.792934 Online Publication Date: 10 September 2008

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