Cookware Chemistry and Glowing Glass

Cookware Chemistry and Glowing Glass

Chemistry Connections

Episode #21

Welcome to Chemistry Connections, my name is Alex Scott and I am your host for episode #21, Cookware Chemistry and Glowing Glass. Today I will be discussing the history and chemistry behind uranium glass.

Segment 1: Introduction to Uranium Glass

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Include definitions, vocabulary, interesting background information and context

  • So today we’re talking about uranium glass, but we have to start much more in the abstract
  • There’s a few different terms used to describe the glass I’m talking about:
  • Depression glass: produced from 1929–1939, often clear or colored translucent machine-made glassware distributed free, or at low cost, in the United States and Canada around the tim e of the Great Depression.
  • Elegant glass: Depression glass that was at least partially handmade, had a cleaner finish, and more vibrant colors, same time period
  • Uranium glass: glass which has had a uranium metal oxide added to a glass mix before melting for coloration
  • Vaseline Glass: uranium glass of a yellow or green translucent color
  • Generally, uranium glass can be identified by shining blacklight on it, as it will fluoresce a bright green
  • Context & History
  • The oldest recorded use is at least 79 AD, in a yellow piece of glass in a Roman mosaic, but it became most popular in the mid 19th century
  • Generally, the most recognized industrial uranium glass producer is Austrian Franz Xaver Riedel
  • He named the 2 colors annagelb and annagrun, for his wife Anna & the German words for yellow and green.
  • Produced variety of items, worked in modern day Dolni Polubni, Bohemia
  • By the 1840s, many other European glassworks began to produce uranium glass items and developed new varieties of uranium glass
  • In the US, Most glassware was made in the Ohio River Valley, where access to raw materials and power made manufacturing inexpensive
  • It was commonly used as a coloring agent for green American Depression glass during the early 20th century
  • Use in the US stopped partway through WWII when the US confiscated uranium supplies 

Segment 2: The Chemistry Behind Uranium Glass

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Provide detailed explanations of the chemistry that is related to your topic.

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  • Why was uranium oxide used to make the glass green?
  • Metal oxides make glass different colors
  • Why?: reflect a specific wavelength and absorb all the others
  • Why does it fluoresce under UV light?
  • Takes the energy from ultraviolet light
  • Excites molecules, so in order to bring electrons back to lower energy state, it releases a photon of light

Segment 3: Personal Connections

  • Interested because:
  • my parents are avid antique glass collectors
  • My parents especially love green Depression Glass
  • I wanted to know what made it that color
  • Tested my own cabinet to see what was and wasn’t uranium AND MOST OF IT WAS
  • It’s strange that radioactive materials were so popular for cookware
  • Stranger that I’ve eaten off of it on holidays and family gatherings
  • The history is so strange

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Music Credits

Warm Nights by @LakeyInspired

Learn about radioactive glassware and other cool cookware chemistry stuff with host Alex

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