Monopoly: The Materials Edition



Raw material


sand dunes

Sand consists of small and very lightweight particles of eroded rock. These particles, or grains, can be easily moved around by wind or water and form sand where they settle (e.g. as sand dunes or in the bottom of rivers or oceans).

The sand composition depends on what type of rock the particles have come from. The most common material is silica (SiO2 = quartz) but other materials can also be present such as tiny fragments of sea shells, volcanic ashes or other types of rock, e.g. granite.
Silica sand is the main material in the production of glass where it is mixed with other minerals and melted at temperatures of 1600 °C. Glass can be coated, heat-treated and shaped (while it is still soft) to form different products, and depending on the composition and cooling rate different properties can be achieved.


Glass bottles

green glass bottles

The first glass bottles were made by the Egyptians around 1500 BC which they mainly used to store cosmetics and perfumes. The bottles were created by wrapping hot molten strands of glass around a clay model to shape the body of the bottle. This was then decorated and, once the glass was cooled, the clay was scraped out.
Today, bottle making is an automated process.

You can watch this video (5 mins) to see how it's done:
How glass bottles are made

Tempered glass

fractured tempered glass

Tempered glass, or toughened glass, is used where safety is important. Normal glass breaks easily into sharp edged shards which can seriously injure a person. Tempered glass is heat treated to make it stronger, and it breaks into hundreds or thousands of small pieces. It has many uses such as for car windows which shatter into tiny, blunt pieces on strong impact. If car windows were made from normal glass they would break every time you shut a car door or went into a pothole. Glass doors and large windows in buildings also have to me made (by law) from tempered glass. Other uses include Pyrex dishware, microwave ovens, laptop screens and solar panels.

Fibre optics

optical fibres

Optical fibres are used mainly in telecommunications and networking. Optical fibre cables consist of glass strands the thickness of a hair which transmit light signals over long distances. As the optical cable doesn't carry electricity the signal is not affected by interference. There is no corrosion or sparks as with metal cables, and it is very safe to use in many environments.
An optical fibre can carry several signals simultaneously by using light of different wavelengths and can therefore carry more data than conventional electrical cables. This means that fewer cables are needed and the wiring is less bulky.
Fibre optics is also used in medical applications, e.g. in endoscopes which are bendy and allow the light to be directed to places inside the body where it is difficult to see. They are often used together with a camera. Other uses are diagnostic tools, similar to endoscopes, e.g. to look into underground pipes, or in lamps, decorations and Christmas trees.



Play with sand on screen



Teachers' resources


Glass bottles
How glass is recycled:

Ancient Egyptian fish-shaped glass containers


Tempered glass
Video – comparison of breaking normal and tempered glass (3 mins 26 secs)


Fibre optics
How optical fibres are made:
Video (5 mins 9 secs) - Mark Miodownik describes how optical fibres work (part of Materials: How they work)
What is fibre optics? (for younger children) (4 mins)
Total internal reflection: