Last Updated: Jul 17, 2018     Views: 19960

Thank you for your question! A scientist at Corning Incorporated provided us with an answer. His response is quoted below. I have also provided a few institutions that you might contact for additional information.

Begin Quote:

Glass only breaks when tensile stresses cause a critical flaw to propagate as a crack. It isn't low temperature per se that would cause glass to break, but a temperature change, usually a decrease, that could cause temporary stresses that would be large enough to propagate a crack. For certain kinds of glass products, this is seen in a test called thermal downshock, where a hot glass article is plunged into, for instance, ice water. The stress generated is a function of the temperature difference, the thermal expansion coefficient of the glass, and the geometry (mostly thickness and shape) of the article. As the surface cools quickly and contracts, tensile stresses can be large enough to cause breakage. Companies that make bakeware pay attention to this.

Glass containers are used for liquid nitrogen and perhaps for liquid helium, so there isn't anything about uniform low temperature that would cause a problem.

End Quote

If you need further documentation on this you might want to contact one of the resources below. These are places we generally refer people to who ask technical questions we can't answer within the current scope of the Rakow Library collection:

  • The Scholes Library at Alfred University, New York State College of Ceramics (http://scholes.alfred.edu). They have a substantial collection of technical information about glass. Pat Lacourse answers technical reference questions (email: lacourpc@alfred.edu). Their reference desk number is: 607-871-2951. Their library catalog can be searched online.
  • The Glass Division of the American Ceramic Society. For contact information and information on finding answers to technical questions, see http://ceramics.org/about/contact-us.
  • The Society of Glass Technology in Sheffield, UK: Website: https://www.sgt.org/.

To read more about the development of temperature-tolerant borosilicate glass, see "Finding the Right Recipe: Borosilicate Glass," in All About Glass on the Museum's website.

Feel free to contact us with glass-related questions in the future!

Comments (5)

  1. I don't understand how this answers my question#confused):
    by **** on Jul 23, 2018.
  2. I believe the answer they gave comes down to "Glass does not shatter when it gets cold if not subjected to thermal stresses. If it is cooled evenly and slowly, it can be cooled to -273 C without cracking."
    by Bob Bryan on Aug 06, 2018.
  3. Um... I just wanna know the temp...
    by meme frog on Sep 24, 2018.
  4. So, bottom line if a box of wrapped empty glasses in a car trunk in "freezing temperatures" will not crack UNLESS it's brought down in a heated area "too fast...???
    by Alexa on Nov 25, 2018.
  5. Not sure what you guys dont understand, it's pretty clear. Glass will NOT break/shatter in any specific cold temperature unless it goes from hot to cold too fast. Meaning it could be -200F and still be fine, but if it dropped from (hypothetically speaking) 60F to -200F in 3 seconds it is very possible to break/shatter. If you're looking for specific temperatures, it has different variables like what kind of glass, timing of temperature drop and actual temperatures, so that's too broad of a question to specifically answer.
    by 1989 on Feb 17, 2019.

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