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The Strength of Broken Glass

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Unlike more traditional structural materials such as steel and reinforced concrete, glass failure is brittle and fast. One of the biggest factors limiting the use of glass as a load-bearing element is the unpredictability of failure. This means ‘structural glass’ is seen as a niche material which only a few structural engineers will consider using.

Upon fracture of a structural glass element two things must be ensured: 1) glass fragments must be held in place to prevent injury to building occupants, and 2) any loads previously carried by the glass must be carried using an alternate route. Laminated glass provides a good solution to both of these. Glass fragments stick to the polymer interlayer after fracture and loads can be carried by a combination of tensile stresses in the interlayer and compressive stresses in interlocking glass fragments.

Currently there is no predictive method for determining the magnitude or duration of the ‘post-fracture’ load bearing capacity. In response to this, this research project focuses on determining a simple method of estimating the post-fracture load bearing characteristics of laminated glass.

This talk is part of the Darwin College Sciences Group series.

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