The Chemistry and Engineering of DIY Photochromic Glass

[Ben Krasnow] is no stranger to exploring the more arcane corners of hackerdom, and the latest video on his “Applied Science” channel goes into a field few DIYers have touched: homemade glass, including the photochromic variety.

That DIY glassmaking remains a largely untapped vein is not surprising given what [Ben] learned over the last months of experimenting. With searing temperatures bordering on the unobtainable, volatile ingredients that evaporate before they can be incorporated, and a final product so reactive that a platinum crucible is the best vessel for the job, glassmaking is not easy, to say the least. Glassmaking doesn’t scale down from an industrial process very well, it seems. Nonetheless, [Ben] came up with a process that could be replicated using common enough ingredients and a simple electric kiln modded with a PID controller for pinpoint temperature setting. And while Luxottica has nothing to worry about yet, he did manage to get some clearly if subtly photochromic samples, despite the challenges.

Without a doubt, [Ben] crossed over into “mad scientist” territory a while back, and we think it’s great. What other way is there to describe a guy who has an electron microscope, a high-power ruby laser, a CT scanner, and a cookie making robot in his basement? Whatever you call it, we like the results.

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And So Castings Made of (Kinetic) Sand . . . Turn Out Pretty Well, Actually

That kinetic sand stuff is pretty cool. It’s soft, it builds motor skills, and outside of sprinkling it on carpet, it’s not messy. If you don’t know, it’s 98% sand and 2% polydimethylsiloxane, which is a major component of Silly Putty, and according to a certain yellow and red clown, it’s safe enough to put in chicken nuggets. [Chris]’s wife bought him some, probably because she wanted to see him play around with something that isn’t potentially deadly for a change. In the course of researching its magical properties, he found out that it doesn’t really have a thermal breakdown point, per se. At high enough temperatures, It vitrifies like a sand castle in a mushroom cloud. Between this property and its malleability, [Chris] thought he’d have a reasonable substitute for founding sand. As you can see in his latest experiment, he was right. As a bonus, he managed to turn the benign into the dangerous.

[Chris] had never cast aluminium before, so he decided to start small by making an offset cam for a rotary broach. He packed some magic sand in a wax paper cup and shoved the cam in to make the negative. Then he cut down some aluminium rod and put it in a graphite crucible. He stuck his DC arc welder’s electrode down into the crucible and cranked it up to 50A. That wasn’t enough, so he went to 110. The crucible was soon glowing orange. He carefully poured the molten aluminium into the mold. Make the jump to see how it panned out.

Spoiler alert: there’s no cussin’ this time!

Continue reading “And So Castings Made of (Kinetic) Sand . . . Turn Out Pretty Well, Actually”