Welcome to the Laboratory


This page is a small window into our approach here at Molten Aura Labs. We are advancing the state of the art of borosilicate color creation and we’re glad to join you on your journey of advancing the state of your art.
sandcrafted

How is Molten Aura Labs glass unique?

The glass colors developed here at The Lab start as crystalline quartz silica. That silica gets combined with high-purity chemicals, then melted into glass at temperatures exceeding 3000 degrees Fahrenheit. This glass is pulled into rods approximately 6-9mm in diameter and 16-20 inches long. We strive to make highly saturated, museum quality borosilicate glass colors.

Every element we use in the glass affects it’s working characteristics in some way. Having complete control over the composition allows us to minimize undesirable traits while maximizing color saturation and usability. No colored glass is going to work exactly like its clear counterpart. Many clears don’t even behave exactly the same. However, we go to great lengths to ensure that the balance of CTE (Coefficient of Thermal Expansion) and viscosity ensures compatibility with the NIST Borosilicate standard (3.3 x 10-60).

Why make borosilicate colors from sand?

Simply put, we wanted stronger colors without sacrificing compatibility. To us, the industry standard process of buying clear glass, grinding it into powder, and adding small amounts of colorants became too limiting. Clear 33CTE borosilicate is essentially 81% Silica, 13% Boron, 4% Alkali, 2% Alumina. As soon as you add anything to the clear cullet to colorize it, you alter that ratio, changing its work-ability and it’s CTE. And because there is no way to properly correct for those adjustments using pre-made glass (cullet), you are limited in how saturated the color can be and have no room to improve work-ability.

In addition to enhanced saturation levels, in many cases we are able to improve the working properties, stabilize the compositions, and minimize, if not eliminate air bubbles. Overall, the elements are more fully integrated into the glassy network than a “low-temp”, cullet-based version.

Our vision is to propel a new generation of borosilicate artwork forward with the richness and optical clarity that has been a staple in soft glass for centuries. We see SANDCRAFTED® glass as the logical next frontier for discerning borosilicate artists.

This all sounds expensive. Are these going to cost more than what I'm used to paying for colored boro?

Maybe. We are forging a new path and developing new technologies and formulas. These steps require completely customized equipment, tools, and furnaces. We run a very lean operation and we’re continually learning new approaches and optimizing our processes.

Also, some colors contain expensive elements, such as gold. Those colors will typically have a higher price point, no matter how they are made.

That being said, you can easily thin our colors out by layering clear over or under them and they will still look amazing. You can effectively double or even triple your yield by adding clear to our gold-based colors, and your piece will still look more saturated than many other pinks and purples on the market.

Why do your colors require different annealing temperatures than Simax? Does that mean they are not 33CTE?

The coefficient of thermal expansion is only one factor in getting two different materials to seal together. A perfectly matching CTE does not automatically equal “compatibility”. But at the same time, something slightly higher or lower than the specific CTE measurement can still compatibly seal to something else (it doesn’t even have to be glass to glass). So when we, or any other company, speaks of 33CTE glass, it is generally understood to represent a family of colored and non-colored borosilicate that is compatible in the area of ~3 × 106 K1 at 20°C. In fact, “borosilicate” itself is an amazingly broad term that includes a huge spectrum of glasses with a vast range of CTE values, viscosities, opacities, etc., most of which are not at all compatible with Simax.

We are not using or making clear Simax, but starting from sand. As an example, something like Lotus White is obviously a radical departure from a simple clear. However, despite it’s unique viscosity curve and CTE measurements, it can still be made to be compatible with Simax. We consider colored glass as unique from clear glass. This is a paradigm shift for most glassblowers, and many manufacturers who typically start with clear and add things to it.

So, viscosity can be different, and CTE can even be different (within reason), and the glass can still be compatible. However, this also means that the annealing/strain temps are different (within reason). “Proper” annealing means there is zero stress left when viewed under a polariscope. “Successful” annealing may mean that your piece stayed together – though there may still be residual stress you haven’t completely relieved.

Ultimately, the glass performing for an individual for their desired effect is what matters most. These balancing acts are not unique to glass making. Metals, ceramics, glasses, plastics, foods, etc. are all formulated as well as they can be within their respective constraints. Anyone exploring the formulation of “different but compatible” materials will quickly learn of the endless variables that need to be accounted for and balanced.

Lotus White, Moonstone, Neptune, Plantphibian, Gold Ruby, Gold Amethyst, Telemagenta, and Royal Jelly have been extensively tested by artists in various production environments using myriad techniques. Additionally, they have been laboratory tested at Orton Materials Testing and Research Center for exact strain point, annealing point, and CTE (Coefficient of Thermal Expansion). We use these data to help us dial in the formulas, and provide accurate annealing temperature ranges for end users.