Technical improvements in 19th-century Belgian window glass production
Faculty of Applied Engineering Sciences
Engineering sciences. Technology
Proceedings of SPIE : integrated approaches to the study of historical glass, Brussels, Belgium, April 16, 2012 / Meulebroeck, W.; Nys, K.; Vanclooster, D.; Thienpont, H.
Glass was used since the Roman age in the building envelope, but it became widely applied together with iron since the 19th century. Belgium was a major producer of window glass during the nineteenth century and the majority of the produced window glass was exported all over the world. Investigating the literature on the development of 19th century Belgian window glass production is therefore internationally relevant. In the 17th century, wood was replaced as a fuel by coal. In the 19th century, the regenerative tank furnace applied gas as a fuel in a continuous glass production process. The advantages were a clean production, a more constant and higher temperature in the furnace and a fuel saving. The French chemist Nicolas Leblanc (1787-1793) and later the Belgian chemist Ernest Solvay (1863) invented processes to produce alkali out of common salt. The artificial soda ash improved the quality and aesthetics of the glass plates. During the 19th century, the glass production was industrialized, influencing the operation of furnaces, the improvement of raw materials as well as the applied energy sources. Although the production process was industrialized, glassblowing was still the work of an individual. By improving his work tools, he was able to create larger glass plates. The developments in the annealing process followed this evolution. The industry had to wait until the invention of the drawn glass in the beginning of the 20th century to fully industrialise the window glass manufacture process.