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Volume 7 / Issue 1

Dr. Frank Preston, prolific inventor

The founder of American Glass Research, Dr. Frank Preston, is well-known for his seminal work in fractography and glass container testing. His roles as an amateur naturalist and conservationist are also widely recognized in western Pennsylvania. But did you know that Dr. Preston was also a prolific inventor?

In the summer of 2019, AGR began digitalizing our archives of early papers that stretch back into the 1920s. Among the yellowed stacks were at least 60 patent ideas recorded by Dr. Preston in various levels of detail, often witnessed by a notary to establish the date of invention. (Until 2013, the USA used a first-to-invent patent system, so proving the date was critical.) Some of these ideas are so prescient that glass technology would not catch up with them until decades later.

For example, a memo to a chemist in 1931 proposes a “solar glass” that would darken when exposed to ultraviolet light. Dr. Preston notes that this reaction must be “rapid and reversible,” and could perhaps be accomplished by a silver salt. In the letter’s closing, he encourages the recipient that “you will no doubt find the working out of the details very simple.”

As history would have it, photochromic glass was invented in the 1960s by a chemist at Corning Glass Works. This type of glass changes from transparent to a darker grey when exposed to UV light, and does in fact rely on silver chloride, a type of silver salt. The color fades after a few minutes in the absence of UV. Almost everyone has seen this type of glass at work in so-called “transition lenses” used for glasses. Although most modern photochromic lenses are made from plastic due to their lower weight, the glass version is still available.

By 1932, Dr. Preston had abandoned the idea of a photo-sensitive glass in favor of heat-reflecting glass that “let sunlight into a building in adequate amounts while excluding the heat rays as much as possible.” He posited that “if a suitable metal can be incorporated in the glass in the metallic form…or deposited on the surface…a high reflecting power in the infrared together with considerable transmission in the visible can be attained.”

This idea came to fruition in the 1970s, largely as envisioned by Dr. Preston, in the form of “low emissivity” glass or simply “low-e” glass. Many varieties of low-e coatings currently exist, but virtually all are in the form of thin layers of silver and/or other metal oxides deposited on the surface of architectural flat glass. Windows or glazing equipped with low-e glass are commonly used in commercial and residential buildings for the enormous savings they provide in heating and cooling costs. One wonders what would have happened to AGR as a company if Dr. Preston had pursued this idea!

Although this article has focused on Preston’s insights into future glass inventions, there were many other less practical patent ideas that never saw the light of day. What would the world have been like if it had leg-attachable air bladders for men who have trouble floating? We can only wonder.

Container Fillers drove 2019 AGR growth in the US and The Netherlands

Brewers, distillers, and winery fillers all combined to drive up AGR revenue in both the Butler, PA and the Delft, The Netherlands labs. In order to assure timely project completion, staff additions were made at both locations.

The primary source of growth came through the increased use of AGR's Proof-of-Design Testing for new and recently lightweighted containers.

The Proof-of-Design Testing provides a thorough evaluation that ensures the container will perform as predicted. The recently, enhanced report format provides key testing data at a glance and our customers are ordering the service at record levels.

If you want to prevent breakage and fill with confidence Contact Us.
"The Shoe on the Other Foot" legacy paper now available 

AGR founder Dr. Frank Preston had a keen way at seeing things differently.  Another example of this was his questioning of the measurement of glass strength in the early 50's. He presented "The Shoe on the Other Foot" paper to The American Ceramic Society in October 1953. The paper challenged some of the measurement techniques of the time, including his own, suggesting the conclusions were being forced to match current thinking. He drew the comparison to putting a shoe on the wrong foot. A reprint of the original published paper is now available to download HERE.
Q: “How can we be assured that the original materials, such as Sand, Limestone, Soda Ash, Carbon, as well as recycled materials like EP Dust, Glass Cullet and Slag, match the composition used in the batch calculation?”

A: To arrive at the desired final glass composition it is critical to characterize all of the batch materials utilizing analytical testing procedures.  The AGR Analytical Testing Lab in Maumee, Ohio can answer all of your questions and give you the assurance that your materials meet the specifications. Contact Us  or Neal Nichols, Manager Materials Testing:

How do ripple marks help you diagnose breakage?

This is just one of many things we will teach you in our upcoming "Fracture 1: Testing and Breakage Diagnosis of Glass Containers" in these locations: 

-Lake Ammersee (Munich), Germany March 16-18
-Butler, PA USA April 21-24
-Montecchio Emilia, Italy May 4-6
-Butler, PA USA June 23-26
-Wuxi, Jiangsu, China June 29-30

To see when and where the all of the F1 Seminars be offered in 2020, visit our Training Catalogue  to learn more or to register.

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If not, visit the AGR LinkedIn homepage and click the Follow button. 

American Glass Research
603 Evans City Road, Butler, PA 16001
Tel: +1 (724) 482-2163
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American Glass Research · 603 Evans City Road · Butler, PA 16001 · USA

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