Natural Glasses

  • Maria Rita CicconiEmail author
  • Daniel R. Neuville
Part of the Springer Handbooks book series (SHB)


Natural glasses have been used since prehistoric times and are strongly linked to human evolution. On Earth, glasses are typically produced by rapid cooling of melts, and as in the case of minerals and rocks, natural glasses can provide key information on the evolution of the Earth. However, we are aware that natural glasses are products that are not solely terrestrial and that the formation mechanisms give rise to a variety of natural amorphous materials. On the Earth's surface, glasses are scarce compared to other terrestrial bodies (i. e., the Moon), since the conditions on the surface give rise to devitrification or weathering. In order to provide an exhaustive overview, we shall classify natural glasses based on the mechanisms by which they were formed: temperature related, temperature–pressure related, temperature–pressure–volatile related, and others.

In this chapter, we will review the most common natural glasses and their technological applications and also the scientific and technological advancements achieved from the study of these natural amorphous materials. Finally, we will provide some insights into the structure and properties of natural glasses and melts.



Some of the data here shown were acquired at the FAME beamline, and we thank the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (Grenoble, France) for provision of synchrotron radiation facilities. The authors thank D. de Ligny and G. Henderson for the useful discussions, B. Cochain for help during the HT XANES experiments, and J. Stebbins for the Libyan Desert glass sample. MRC thanks E. Guillaud for pictures of natural glasses and S. Wolf for useful discussions on biomimetic materials. DRN thanks J.C. Bouillard, Curator of the Collection de Minéraux University Pierre and Marie Curie, Paris, for providing fulgurite samples.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dept. of Materials Science and EngineeringFriedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-NürnbergErlangenGermany
  2. 2.Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris CNRS-IPGP-USPCParisFrance

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