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Conductive Glass

This experiment was inspired by an article by F. J Stone, which appeared in the November 1969
edition of ractical !lectronics ma"a#ine.
The availability of transparent cond$ctive "lass sho$ld ma%e some interestin" experiments
possible, partic$larly with electro&optic devices. 'll that is re($ired is a hot plate, some ordinary
window "lass, a "lass c$tter and some stanno$s chloride powder. ) obtained *+," of stanno$s
chloride powder thro$"h a local chemist. The stanno$s chloride powder m$st be %ept in an air
ti"ht bottle beca$se it is very hy"roscopic -absorbs water. and as a res$lt tends to form into solid
l$mps.
)t is important that this experiment is cond$cted well away from food and food preparation areas.
Stanno$s chloride is harmf$l and contains tin which can ca$se tin poisonin". The vapo$r m$st
not be inhaled. /nce the hot plate has been $sed for this experiment, it sho$ld not be $sed for
coo%in" food. There is also the obvio$s ha#ard of hi"h temperat$res which co$ld ca$se b$rns or
start a fire.
First, the "lass to be made cond$ctive m$st be cleaned. ) first clean it with toothpaste beca$se it
is a mild abrasive. ) then wash it in warm soapy water, then isopropyl&alcohol and then distilled
water. Finally ) dry it with warm air.
) place a rectan"$lar sheet of al$mini$m on a
normal electric coo%in" hot&plate. This one is a
0riterion type ,112 which is 1+,,3. The type is
not partic$larly important, b$t it needs to "et $p
to aro$nd 4,,0. ) $se the al$mini$m sheet so
that the "lass is heated more evenly and can be
lifted off with a lar"e pair of pliers while it is still
hot. )t can then be placed in ins$latin" "lass wool
to cool slowly.
The "lass to be made cond$ctive is placed on the
al$mini$m sheet. )t is the top s$rface which will
become cond$ctive. This piece is 6+mm by
1,1mm and *mm thic%. Two pieces of "lass
abo$t 1cm s($are are then positioned on top of
each other at each corner. 5ere ) wanted a non&cond$ctive re"ion at one end, so ) positioned a
rectan"$lar piece of "lass as a mas% and then two small pieces on top. ' small pile of stanno$s
chloride is then made between the two "lass
s($ares at the front.
' second, sli"htly lar"er piece of "lass is then
placed on top to form a sandwich, with a 4mm
air "ap in the middle. This top piece of "lass has
been $sed several times before, which is why it is stained white and brown.
The hot&plate is then t$rned $p to f$ll heat. The clips at the front of the al$mini$m plate are
where ) had a thermoco$ple attached to meas$re the temperat$re. 't f$ll heat, this hot&plate
reaches 41,0.
's the stanno$s chloride is heated it "oes thro$"h a n$mber of distinct phases. First it li($efies as
in the photo"raph below.
Then it boils and t$rns bac% into a white powder. ) thin% it is act$ally absorbed water which is
boilin" off at this point.
3hen it "ets m$ch hotter, it t$rns into a li($id a"ain and becomes sli"htly yellow.
Finally, it starts to smo%e. 't this point ) blow the vapo$r very "ently thro$"h between the "lass
plates. ) %eep doin" this $ntil it stops smo%in".
3hen it has stopped smo%in", ) lift the al$mini$m sheet off the hot&plate and place it in a pile of
"lass wool to cool slowly.
6$rin" my first attempt ) allowed the "lass to
cool on the hot plate. )t fract$red violently
d$rin" coolin" and the two halves went in
opposite directions. 7$ryin" it in thermally
ins$latin" "lass wool allows it to anneal as it
cools, relievin" the stresses.
The 1cm s($are "lass separators and the top
sheet of "lass can be $sed many times.
This is the "lass after it has cooled. )t is now
cond$ctive except for the rectan"le at the bac%
where it was mas%ed. The area at the front where
the stanno$s chloride was can be removed $sin"
a "lass c$tter. The central area meas$res abo$t
1.1%8 per centimeter with pointed probes.
The cond$ctive film is act$ally tin oxide and is
even harder than the "lass. )t is well adhered and
can not be scratched off. 9ower resistance films
are achievable by repeatin" the process.
This pict$re sho$ld "ive an idea how
transparent the cond$ctive "lass is. The "lass
covers the ri"ht hand area of the text.
:odern cond$ctive "lass is often made $sin"
indi$m tin oxide, which provides hi"h
electrical cond$ctivity and optical
transparency.