Boron is considered a “low-abundance” element in the solar system and makes up only 0.001% of the Earth's crust. Yet, despite its modest representation in the universe, it is extremely prevalent in Corning’s research and development labs. In fact, if you were to go through our inventory of glass compositions, you would find hundreds of borosilicates – i.e., glasses that feature boron and silicon dioxides, versus conventional soda-lime glass, which is used in windows and bottles.
Why is boron so popular? A big part is its tough guy appeal. Boron enables glasses with strong chemical durability. It also has a very low coefficient of thermal expansion. That means borosilicate glasses withstand faster temperature changes than soda-lime glass.
Corning’s first significant application of borosilicate glass is a product you’re probably familiar with: PYREX® glass. Like the world’s most-beloved superheroes, PYREX glass has a great origin story. In 1915, Corning physicist Dr. Jesse Littleton was trying to develop a heat-resistant glass. One night, he brought home a sawed-off battery jar made of an experimental glass composition. His wife Bessie used it to bake a sponge cake, proving the glass could be used in the oven… and giving birth to the legendary line of cookware and laboratory glass.