Lead-free Glass Decor

Bismuth oxide replaces lead oxide in decorative glass.

01 January 2015

The decorative graphics sometimes found on perfume bottles, beer mugs, and baby bottles, etc., are often made of special glasses containing lead oxide, which can be a health hazard.

In order for printing inks to be durable, they must be made of chemically resistant glass, which usually contains a lot of silicon dioxide. This glass is melted above 1600 degrees Celsius — a temperature at which the base glass would normally deform. The added lead oxide lowers the melting temperature to below 600 degrees Celsius, creating viable processing conditions.

In preparation for a future EU Directive to banish potentially unhealthy lead oxide, some manufacturers are replacing lead oxide with bismuth oxide. But bismuth is also dangerous to health and the environment and it increases the cost of imprints. A new development by researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research (ISC) (Germany) and the Forschungsgemeinschaft Technik und Glas e.V. (Germany) addresses this issue.

lead-oxide free glass image
Lead-oxide-free colors have a high color brilliance and are chemically resistant.
© Fraunhofer ISC / K. Selsam-Geißler

“We have developed lead-oxide-free decorative paints, which do perfectly well without toxic substances,” says Anika Deinhardt, researcher at the ISC. “They are easy to process, have brilliant color, are chemically resistant, and do not contain rare or expensive elements.”

The basis of these novel decorative paints is a glass that consists of mainly zinc oxide with aluminum oxide, boron oxide, and silicon dioxide (ZABS). Zinc oxide ensures the glass melts below 650 degrees Celsius.

“Through other additives, we are able to modify ZABS further and adapt it to the respective requirements,” explains Deinhardt. So far, the researchers have reduced the melting temperature to 580 degrees Celsius. Work is underway to produce glasses with a processing temperature of 540 degrees Celsius.

Photonics for a Better World

logo for Photonics for a Better WorldSPIE Professional launched its “Photonics for a Better World” series in the SPIE member magazine in 2009.

Do you have a question or comment about these articles?

Do you have a story to contribute about how optics and photonics technologies benefit humanity?

Write to us at spieprofessional@spie.org.

Read more articles and blog posts celebrating the many ways that optics and photonics are applied in creating a better world at PhotonicsForaBetterWorld.org

Recent News
Sign in to read the full article
Create a free SPIE account to get access to
premium articles and original research
Forgot your username?