Modern dichroic glass is available as a result of materials research carried out by NASA and its contractors, who developed it for use in dichroic filters. However, color changing glass dates back to at least the 4th century AD, though only a very few pieces, mostly fragments1 survive.
Today multiple ultra-thin layers of different metals (such as gold or silver); oxides of such metals as titanium, chromium, aluminum, zirconium, or magnesium; or silica are vaporized by an electron beam in a vacuum chamber. The vapor then condenses on the surface· of the glass in the form of crystal structure. A protective layer of quartz crystal is sometimes added. Other variants of such physical vapor deposition (PVD) coatings are also possible. The finished glass can have as many as 30 to 50 layers of these materials, yet the thickness of the total coating is approximately about 760 to 890 mm. The coating that is created is very similar to a gemstone and, by careful control of thickness, different colors may be obtained.
The total light that hits the dichroic layer equals the wavelengths reflected plus the wavelengths passing through the dichroic layer. In addition, dichroic glass can be fused with other glass in multiple firings. Individual results can never be exactly predicted, so each piece of fused dichroic glass is unique.
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