For the purposes of classification, borosilicate glass can be roughly arranged in the following groups, according to their oxide composition (in mass fractions). Characteristic of borosilicate glasses is the presence of substantial amounts of silica (SiO2) and boric oxide (B2O3, >8%) as glass network formers. The amount of boric oxide affects the glass properties in a particular way. Apart from the highly resistant varieties (B2O3 up to a maximum of 13%), there are others that – due to the different way in which the boric oxide is incorporated into the structural network – have only low chemical resistance (B2O3 content over 15%). Hence we differentiate between the following subtypes.
Non-alkaline-earth borosilicate glass (borosilicate glass 3.3)
The B2O3 content for borosilicate glass is typically 12–13% and the SiO2 content over 80%. High chemical durability and low thermal expansion (3.3 × 10−6 K−1) – the lowest of all commercial glasses for large-scale technical applications – make this a multitalented glass material. High-grade borosilicate flat glasses are used in a wide variety of industries, mainly for technical applications that require either good thermal resistance, excellent chemical durability, or high light transmission in combination with a pristine surface quality. Other typical applications for different forms of borosilicate glass include glass tubing, glass piping, glass containers, etc. especially for the chemical industry.
Alkaline-earth-containing borosilicate glasses
In addition to about 75% SiO2 and 8–12% B2O3, these glasses contain up to 5% alkaline earths and alumina (Al2O3). This is a subtype of slightly softer glasses, which have thermal expansions in the range (4.0–5.0) × 10−6 K−1.
High-borate borosilicate glasses
Glasses containing 15–25% B2O3, 65–70% SiO2, and smaller amounts of alkalis and Al2O3 as additional components have low softening points and low thermal expansion. Sealability to metals in the expansion range of tungsten and molybdenum and high electrical insulation are their most important features. The increased B2O3 content reduces the chemical resistance; in this respect, high-borate borosilicate glasses differ widely from non-alkaline-earth and alkaline-earth borosilicate glasses. Among these are also borosilicate glasses that transmit UV light down to 180 nm, which combine the best of the borosilicate glass and the quartz world.