Will Borosilicate Glass Break If Dropped?

Borosilicate glass is a special type of glass known for its strength, thermal resistance, and durability. But will it break if dropped? Let’s take a closer look at the properties of borosilicate glass and what happens when it impacts a hard surface.

What is Borosilicate Glass?

Borosilicate glass is a type of glass made by adding boron trioxide to the glass production process. Borosilicate glass contains roughly 80% silica, 13% boric oxide, 4% sodium oxide, and 2% aluminum oxide.

The addition of boron increases the glass’s thermal expansion coefficient, which means it expands less than regular glass when heated. This makes borosilicate glass highly resistant to thermal shock, so it can withstand rapid temperature changes without cracking or breaking.

Borosilicate glass is also chemically resistant and harder than regular glass due to the boron content. These unique properties make borosilicate glass ideal for scientific equipment like beakers, test tubes, and laboratory glassware. It is also used to make high-heat cookware and ovenware.

Some common brand names for borosilicate glass include Pyrex, Simax, Duran, and Kimax.

Why is Borosilicate Glass Stronger Than Regular Glass?

There are a few key reasons why borosilicate glass is stronger than regular soda-lime glass:

Thermal Shock Resistance

The boron oxide in borosilicate glass gives it a very low coefficient of thermal expansion compared to regular glass. This means it expands less than regular glass when heated.

As a result, borosilicate glass can withstand rapid temperature changes up to 300°C without cracking or breaking. Regular glass would fracture under the same conditions due to thermal shock.

Increased Hardness

The chemical structure of borosilicate glass makes it harder than regular glass. On the Mohs hardness scale, borosilicate glass ranks around 6.5 compared to 5.5 for regular glass.

The increased hardness makes borosilicate glass more scratch and impact resistant. Harder materials are generally stronger as well.

Higher Chemical Resistance

Borosilicate glass has excellent chemical resistance, meaning it does not corrode or dissolve readily when exposed to acids, bases, salts, or solvents.

This chemical resistance results from the boron trioxide component. The boron atoms enhance the formation of the glass network, creating a more stable structure.

The chemical durability also contributes to the mechanical strength and crack resistance of borosilicate glass.

Will Borosilicate Glass Break If Dropped?

Now that we’ve looked at why borosilicate glass is structurally stronger than regular glass, let’s examine what happens when it is dropped.

It Can Still Break Under Impact

While borosilicate glass is more durable than regular glass, it is not unbreakable. If dropped onto a hard surface from sufficient height, borosilicate glass can still crack or shatter.

The maximum impact borosilicate glass can withstand depends on factors like:

  • Thickness – Thicker glass is more resistant to breaking.
  • Drop height – Dropping from higher up imparts more energy when hitting the floor.
  • Surface hardness – Dropping onto concrete has more impact than carpet.
  • Shape – Intricate glassware is weaker than simple shapes.

So even though borosilicate glass is very tough, dropping a thin borosilicate beaker from 5 feet onto concrete could certainly cause it to break.

It is More Impact Resistant Than Regular Glass

However, borosilicate glass is significantly more impact and crack resistant than regular soda-lime glass.

In controlled drop testing, borosilicate glass can withstand 2-3 times more impact before fracturing than regular glass.

For example, a standard borosilicate Pyrex baking dish may crack if dropped onto a hard floor from shoulder height. But a regular glass bakeware dish would shatter under the same drop conditions.

So while not impervious to breaking from impacts, borosilicate glass has a clear durability advantage over traditional glass compositions. This makes it ideal for applications where mechanical strength is important.

It Withstands Thermal Shock After Impacts

An interesting property of borosilicate glass is that it retains its thermal shock resistance even after being damaged.

For example, if a Pyrex measuring cup gets chipped after being dropped, it will still withstand rapid temperature changes without sustaining further damage.

The same cannot be said for regular glass. Any cracks or chips in regular glass compromise its thermal shock properties.

So borosilicate glass is unique in remaining thermally resilient post-impact. This highlights the inherent durability and versatility of its molecular structure.

Factors That Affect Borosilicate Glass Breaking

There are several key factors that determine whether a borosilicate glass item will break when dropped:

Drop Height

The height an object falls from greatly affects the impact energy it receives. Dropping from higher up means more speed and more force when hitting the ground.

At sufficient heights, even durable borosilicate glass will accumulate enough energy to cause breaking upon impact with a hard surface.

Landing Surface

The hardness and texture of the surface something lands on influences the severity of impact. Dropping borosilicate glass onto carpet disperses more energy than a smooth tile floor. And concrete is much less forgiving than wood if dropped from height.

Landing surface characteristics like flexibility and friction determine how abruptly the drop momentum gets transferred as impact stress into the glassware. Harder, stiffer surfaces mean more breakage risk for borosilicate items.

Component Thickness

Thicker borosilicate glass pieces are inherently stronger than thin ones. Glassware walls, bases, and handles distribute and dampen impact stress more effectively when thicker.

Thin borosilicate test tubes and pipettes are more prone to fracturing on drops than thick Pyrex baking dishes, for example. Component thickness correlates directly with impact durability.

Shape and Design

The overall shape and construction of borosilicate products also affects their susceptibility to breaks. Delicate, intricate glassware with thin junctions or narrow openings are weaker than uncomplicated, seamless shapes.

Additionally, items with thick bases or wide rims help prevent cracks from propagating through the entire piece when dropped. Simple and solid borosilicate product designs perform best.

Existing Flaws

Any chips, cracks, or scratches compromise the overall integrity of borosilicate glass. Defects act as stress concentrators that initiate breaking much easier when impacted.

Flawed or damaged borosilicate glassware is significantly more prone to shattering if dropped compared to pristine items. It’s important to inspect for and discard any glassware with defects.

Temperature Differences

Sudden temperature changes can create thermal stresses in borosilicate glass. Large temperature swings weaken glass and make it more susceptible to breaking when impacted.

A hot Pyrex dish straight from the oven will have higher risk of fracture upon dropping than one at room temperature. Avoid big temperature fluctuations whenever possible.

By understanding these factors, borosilicate glass products can be handled and used in ways that minimize the chance of damaging breaks and fractures if accidentally dropped.

Can Broken Borosilicate Glass Be Repaired?

Borosilicate glass that fractures or shatters from impacts can rarely be restored to original strength. However, here are a few repair options:


Special high-strength glass adhesives like UV curing epoxy can rejoin simple cracks or breaks. This creates a rigid bridge across the damage.

However, glued borosilicate glass is never quite as structurally sound as original and may fail under repeated stresses. Use glued items carefully.


Severely damaged borosilicate glassware can sometimes be sent back to the manufacturer to be remelted and reformed.

This eliminates cracks and weak points, but is only economical for expensive scientific glassware, not consumer items.


Unserviceable broken borosilicate glass is often recycled back into new glass products. This captures the qualities of borosilicate glass into fresh items.

Recycling is an effective strategy for irreparably shattered borosilicate glassware. It gives the material renewed purpose.


For inexpensive consumer borosilicate products like Pyrex, it is often easier to simply replace them after breaking rather than attempting repairs.

Thankfully, the low cost makes replacing broken items with new ones very feasible.

So while broken borosilicate cannot be fully restored, several options exist for reusing or replacing what gets damaged. Proper handling methods remain the best way to preserve borosilicate glass in the first place.

Key Takeaways on Borosilicate Glass Breaking

  • Borosilicate glass is highly resistant to thermal shock and more durable than regular glass due to its chemical makeup.
  • However, it can still break or shatter if dropped from sufficient heights onto hard surfaces. It is not unbreakable.
  • Borosilicate glass withstands 2-3x more impact before fracturing than standard glass. But it can still break under enough force.
  • Cracks and chips severely compromise the strength. Defect-free borosilicate glass handles impacts better.
  • Thicker glass, smaller drops, flexible surfaces, and stable temperatures all minimize the risk of breaks.
  • While very tough, borosilicate glass must still be handled with care to prevent fractures that can weaken its capabilities.

In summary, borosilicate glass has excellent durability compared to regular glass, but it is not impervious to breaking from impacts. Understanding the factors that cause it to break allows using precautions and best practices to keep it protecting and performing over the long term in science, industry, and the home.


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