Friday, 25 February 2011

The Magic of Glass

Where would we be without glass. No telescopes, no microscopes, no windows, restricted chemistry and medical equipment,no TVs or computers, no bottles, no enamel, no fibre optics and so the list goes on. Earlier in the week I was a guest of the Master Glass Seller, a personal friend, at their Annual Ravenscroft Lecture. George Ravenscroft, in whose memory this lecture is held, lived in the mid seventeenth century and is remembered today for his role in the invention and subsequent development of  lead crystal glass. There is some debate over how, when  and why Ravencroft got the idea to use lead in the production of glass (he was a very secretive man). However as we all know lead glass has a higher refractive index making it appear sparklingly bright and brilliant in light and it 'rings when struck'.

The speaker was Dr Bob King a physicist who was a key mover at Triplex, subsequently Pilkington, in researching and developing new materials that were needed for the Concorde windscreen programme. These windscreens were made up of many layers, as all jet windsreens now are. Part of the programme was the development of a new highly transparent electrically conducting coating which is now universally used on civil and military aircraft windscreens. At the same time LCD (Liquid crystal display) technology was under development  and the windscreen work was found to be ideally suited to to these displays and has been utilised in such products ever since. Bob King's lecture was delivered with excellent colour slides making the technical easy for the layman to understand.

The magic in the title is an oblique reference to the fact that Bob King is a magician and has been President of the British magic circle. It goes without that he ended his lecture with a dazzling piece of magic.

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