The Sovitec company is currently producing these glass microbeads in a range of different sizes, from a few microns to millimeters. Due to their inherent hardness and optical properties, glass beads are currently used for shot-peening and retro-reflective road marking. However, they have other unique properties that can be useful for many other applications:
- Size: Glass microbeads size influences how they stack together. Small beads lead to smaller pore size and higher surface area than bigger ones. Because of the size distribution, the permeability and diffusion properties of a glass microbeads pack are quite predictable and homogenous, which can be useful for filtration, drainage or aerating medium.
- Shape: Having a round shape that minimizes friction, glass microbeads are very easy to disperse in any media or environment. They can flow as a fluid and reach places where bulky material can not. An application is cleaning of inner surface. Glass microbeads smooth surface ensure a gentle cleaning, avoiding any anchoring that could damage sensitive parts.
- Optical: Glass beads can interefere with light, to act as a retro-reflective surface but also as a diffusive layer. This result in an homogenous and smooth illumination, or less reflection. On the contrary, if used as an additive in transparent articles, glass microbeads do not impart transparency of the article.
- Mechanical: Due to their inherent hardness, glass microbeads are very strong and impart high scratch and abrasion resistance to materials or coating they are added in. Glass microbeads can also provide a polish effect and act as solid lubricant.
- Thermal: Glass beads have a very low coefficient of thermal expansion, they impart dimensional stability to a large range of temperature. They would also help heat distribution in materials, lowering risk of premature failure. Gass beads are also fully non inflammable, eventually they soften and melt above 600°C.
- Chemical: Glass microbeads are quite inert, remaining stable in harsh or aggressive environments. In addition, they are harmless for biological body and non-allergenic. The chemical glass chemical structure imparts good electrical insulation and gas-barrier properties.
Source: sovitec.comAdded: 10 May 2010