Fused quartz or fused silica is glass consisting of high-purity silica in amorphous (non-crystalline) form. It is different from traditional glasses in that no other ingredients are added to lower the melt temperature. Fused silica, therefore, has much higher working and melting temperatures than soda-lime or borosilicate glasses.
Fused quartz is manufactured by fusing (melting) naturally occurring quartz crystals of high purity at approximately 2000 °C, using either an electrically heated furnace (electrically fused) or a gas/oxygen-fuelled furnace (flame fused). Fused quartz is normally transparent. The optical and thermal properties of fused quartz are superior to those of other types of glass due to its purity. For these reasons, it finds use in situations such as semiconductor fabrication and laboratory equipment. It has better ultraviolet transmission than most other glasses, and so is used to make lenses and other optics for the ultraviolet spectrum. Its low coefficient of thermal expansion also makes it a useful material for precision mirror substrates.
Fused silica is produced using high-purity silica sand as the feedstock, and is normally melted using an electric furnace, resulting in a material that is translucent or opaque. (This opacity is caused by very small air bubbles trapped within the material.)
Synthetic fused silica is made from a silicon-rich chemical precursor usually using a continuous flame hydrolysis process which involves chemical gasification of silicon, oxidation of this gas to silicon dioxide, and thermal fusion of the resulting dust (although there are alternative processes). This results in a transparent glass with an ultra-high purity and improved optical transmission in the deep ultraviolet. One common method involves adding silicon tetrachloride to a hydrogen–oxygen flame, however use of this precursor results in environmentally unfriendly by-products including chlorine and hydrochloric acid. To eliminate these by-products, new processes have been developed using an alternative feedstock, which has also resulted in a higher purity fused silica with further improved deep ultraviolet transmission.
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