Tempered glass is one of two kinds of safety glass regularly used in applications in which standard glass could pose a potential danger. Tempered glass is four to five times stronger than standard glass and does not break into sharp shards when it fails. Tempered glass is manufactured through a process of extreme heating and rapid cooling, making it harder than normal glass.

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The brittle nature of tempered glass causes it to shatter into small oval-shaped pebbles when broken. This eliminates the danger of sharp edges. Due to this property, along with its strength, tempered glass is often referred to as safety glass. Building codes also require the windows of many public structures to be made of tempered glass.
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Toughened glass is physically and thermally stronger than regular glass. The greater contraction of the inner layer during manufacturing induces compressive stresses in the surface of the glass balanced by tensile stresses in the body of the glass. For glass to be considered toughened, this compressive stress on the surface of the glass should be a minimum of 69 MPa. For it to be considered safety glass, the surface compressive stress should exceed 100 MPa. The greater the surface stress, the smaller the glass particles will be when broken.

It is this compressive stress that gives the toughened glass increased strength. This is because any surface flaws tend to be pressed closed by the retained compressive forces, while the core layer remains relatively free of the defects which could cause a crack to begin.

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Any cutting or grinding must be done prior to tempering. Cutting, grinding, sharp impacts and sometimes even scratches after tempering will cause the glass to fracture. When molten glass is dripped into water, it creates objects known as “Prince Rupert’s Drops.” These glass tadpole-like objects can be hammered without damage but will shatter completely when their “tails” are even slightly damaged. This is an extreme example of the effects of internal tension.