When we think of glass, we don’t think of fiber. Yet, here we are! Now called fiberglass, a fiber most frequently seen in fiberglass insulation in building. Glass fibers were first produced in the United States in 1936.
Silica sand, limestone, soda ash, borax, boric acid, feldspar, and fluorspar are combined and heated to form a molten glass mixture. This mixture is then drawn through a small hole at the bottom of the melting pot and collected on a revolving carrier which stretches the filament. A final step, in which air or steam is applied, makes it thinner and more flexible.
Benefits of Glass Fiber
- High strength
- Heat resistance
- Flame resistance
- Doesn’t absorb moisture
Though the first thing we thing about is building insulation, glass fiber is used in fabrics. It makes for an excellent flame resistant tapestry fabric, such as those used for curtains. Glass fabric is also used to reinforce boats, molded plastics, and airplane parts.
Don’t. Just, don’t. Airborne fiberglass can be very dangerous. It is still glass, and does not break down inside the body the way many fibers do. If inhaled, it can really cut up your lungs. It can cause skin, eye, and throat irritation as well. Don’t handle fiberglass as a hand spinner.
Consider this an information nugget that shows how broad a range of materials man has experimented with in the fiber field.
Man-Made Fibers Fact Book, , Man-Made Fiber. Producers Association, Inc. 1978.