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2022 is the International Year of Glass. And yet many glass factories are struggling to survive. High energy costs and significant CO2 emissions mean that glass production has a difficult future. Researchers from the FAU and the Technische Hochshchule Nürnberg Georg Simon Ohm are now conducting research to find a solution to make glass production more sustainable without the use of fossil fuels. Their approach is based on electric furnaces.

“We use glass in our daily lives much more than we imagine, sometimes colored, sometimes transparent, for a number of different functions, “says Professor, Dr. Dominique de Linyi of the Department of Glass and Ceramics at FAU.” Not only for windows, but also for screens our smartphones, for storing cans, in rotating blades of wind turbines or in the production of lasers ”.

Glass production requires a lot of energy. To obtain glass, you need to heat different raw materials oven at temperatures above 1600 degrees Celsius. Such a high temperature is achieved by combustion natural gasbut a large amount of CO2 released in the process. Rising natural gas prices mean that glass factories are facing huge increases in production costs. Meanwhile, energy costs account for more than 40% of total expenditures, whereas by 2020 they accounted for only 14%.

A trend that is already putting several glass factories on the verge of closing.

Melting glass with electricity

Together with Professor Dr. Sven Wiltsch from the Faculty of Materials TH Nürnberg, Professor Dr. Dominique de Linyi has already researched ways to make glass production more sustainable and independent of fossil fuels since 2020. One option is to heat the stove with electricity instead of natural gas. To heat the raw material with electricity, electrodes are attached to the edge of the glass boiler. Electricity flows between the electrodes, transferring energy to the material and causing it to melt.

“If we think we can use it green energy in the future this will make this method much more sustainable. This process would release only a very small amount of CO2since purely electric melting processes do not involve any combustion. By-products such as CO2 or carbon monoxide will no longer stand out, ”explains Professor Wilch. – When the furnace is powered by electricity, less energy is lost than, for example, in the conversion of hydrogen. That’s why the system is more efficient. “

Blue glass instead of brown

However, during the experiments, researchers faced a problem: their method is not suitable for the production of brown glass, but brown glass is vital for certain purposes. Brown glass is necessary, for example, for storage of medicines and foodstuff as protects them from UV rays.

The reason why the method is unsuitable for obtaining brown glass is the high concentration of oxygen in electric furnaces. In traditional furnaces the atmosphere is low oxygen but in an electric furnace, oxygen level high. The high concentration of oxygen in the furnace changes chemical reactions at the level of atoms, creating blue rather than brown glass.

Nicole Ostermeier explores the special atomic properties of brown glass in her undergraduate dissertation. She is studying applied materials science at TH Nürnberg, and is conducting research at FAU as to why brown glass loses its color and how the melting process changes when using electricity.

“If we understood the effect of oxygen on the color of glass, we would also be able to produce brown glass with electrodes, which will make the whole process of glass production more sustainable,” say Professor de Linyi and Professor Wilch.

Researchers produce cost-effective, environmentally friendly glass material

Citation: Glass and energy reform: sustainable production thanks to electricity? (May 23, 2022) Retrieved May 23, 2022, from

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