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Why glass can exist much longer time than 1000-years' plastic?

Views: 2     Author: Site Editor     Publish Time: 2023-06-17      Origin: Site

Why glass can exist much longer time than 1000-years' plastic?

Plastic pollutants are one of the main pollutants generated by human activities. The reason why plastics can become a major pollutant lies in their difficulty to degrade. If we want plastics to degrade naturally in the environment, it usually takes anywhere from 200 to 1000 years, even for ordinary plastic bags, their natural degradation time can be as long as 200 to 400 years.

Although plastics are difficult to degrade, there is another material that humans use which is even more durable and can exist in the environment for much longer, and that is glass. Is there any basis for saying that glass can exist for a longer time than plastic? 

钢化玻璃效果 (3)

Absolutely. In some fictional time-traveling dramas, we often see scenes where a person travels back thousands of years and creates glass, and people in the past are amazed by this transparent object, allowing the protagonist to gain wealth through time travel. However, this is completely a wrong representation because the history of glass production by humans is very ancient. As early as 1000 BC, over 3000 years ago, the ancient Egyptians had mastered the art of glassblowing.

Through the art of glassblowing, ancient Egyptians could create various exquisite glass products. In fact, glass products had already appeared over 4000 years ago, even before the emergence of glassblowing. Archaeologists have discovered a large number of glass products from different periods, and all of these glass products are well preserved. This at least indicates that several thousand years have no significant impact on glass. Glass can be preserved for thousands of years, so what about even longer periods?

In fact, glass can exist in the natural environment for much longer than you might imagine. To understand how long glass can exist, we first need to understand what glass is. Glass mainly consists of silica dioxide and other oxides. It is an amorphous solid with a disordered atomic arrangement.

The unique atomic arrangement structure gives glass high hardness, and on the other hand, due to the highly stable chemical properties of glass, it hardly reacts chemically with any substance. This means that in the natural environment, glass is virtually immune to chemical attacks. You might say that hydrofluoric acid can corrode glass.

Indeed, hydrofluoric acid can react with glass, and not only hydrofluoric acid, strong alkalis can also corrode glass. However, the problem is that neither hydrofluoric acid nor strong alkalis exist in the natural environment. In nature, glass is almost impervious to magical attacks. 

The only way to damage glass is through physical attacks. In the natural environment, the erosion of wind and rain, abrasion from sand and gravel, and geological movements can cause glass to break. 

After all, glass is very prone to shattering. In daily life, we often witness the phenomenon that newly installed glass loses transparency after just a few years. This is due to the physical wear and tear caused by rainwater erosion and wind-blown sand friction on the glass surface.

Large pieces of glass will shatter into smaller pieces under physical attacks, and these smaller pieces of glass will continue to be impacted, becoming even smaller and rounder. Eventually, they become smaller than grains of sand, and we can no longer distinguish them with the naked eye whether they are glass or not. 

Some say that glass can exist in the natural environment for a million years, but that's actually an understatement. For glass products, as long as they are properly preserved and not subjected to physical damage, they can last for thousands or even millions of years. As long as human civilization exists, glass can continue to exist, and it may even outlast the duration of human civilization. 

As for glass itself, if we disregard its form, it can be said to have the same lifespan as the Earth because even if glass is shattered and continuously broken into smaller pieces through physical impacts, it remains glass. Even if it becomes invisible dust particles, its essence as glass remains unchanged.

So in short sentence, glass can exist longer than plastic due to its high durability, chemical stability, and unique atomic structure. Unlike plastic, which takes hundreds of years to degrade naturally, glass can withstand the test of time for thousands of years without significant deterioration. Its composition of silica dioxide and other oxides, along with its disordered yet orderly atomic arrangement, gives glass a remarkable ability to resist corrosion and remain intact.

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