volcanic glass

volcanic glass
a natural glass produced when molten lava cools very rapidly; obsidian.
[1830-40]

* * *

Any glassy rock formed from lava or magma that has a chemical composition close to that of granite.

Such molten material may reach very low temperatures without crystallizing, but its viscosity may become very high. Because high viscosity inhibits crystallization, the combination of sudden cooling and loss of volatiles, as when lava extrudes from a volcanic vent, tends to chill the material to a glass rather than crystallize it.

* * *

      any glassy rock formed from lava or magma that has a chemical composition close to that of granite (quartz plus alkali feldspar). Such molten material may reach very low temperatures without crystallizing, but its viscosity may become very high. Because high viscosity inhibits crystallization, a sudden cooling and loss of volatiles, as when lava extrudes from a volcanic vent, tends to chill the material to a glass rather than to crystallize it.

      Volcanic glass is unstable and tends to change spontaneously (devitrify) from the glassy to the crystalline state in periods of time that are relatively short by geologic standards; the material takes on a stony appearance due to the presence of minutely crystalline aggregates. Geologically ancient glasses are therefore very rare, and most glassy rocks are of Tertiary age or younger (less than 66.4 million years old). There is good reason to believe that glassy rocks were abundant in ancient geologic time, but nearly all of these have since devitrified. Devitrification commonly begins along cracks in the glass or around large crystals and may spread outward until eventually the entire mass has been converted to fine crystals of quartz, tridymite, and alkali feldspar.

      Characteristic of many natural glasses is a streaked or swirly structure that consists of bands or trains of crystals and crystalline bodies. This structure is believed to have been formed by the flowage of viscous lava. Some flow structures consist of alternating bands of different-coloured material; in others, layers of bubble-free glass alternate with highly vesicular glass. See also obsidian; tachylyte.

* * *


Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Volcanic glass — Volcanic Vol*can ic, a. [Cf. F. volcanique, It. vulcanico.] 1. Of or pertaining to a volcano or volcanoes; as, volcanic heat. [1913 Webster] 2. Produced by a volcano, or, more generally, by igneous agencies; as, volcanic tufa. [1913 Webster] 3.… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • volcanic glass — n. natural glass, as obsidian, formed by the very rapid cooling of molten lava …   English World dictionary

  • Volcanic glass — A sand grain of volcanic glass under the petrographic microscope. Its amorphous nature makes it go extinct in cross polarized light (bottom frame). Scale box in millimeters. Volcanic glass is the amorphous (uncrystallized) product of rapidly… …   Wikipedia

  • volcanic glass — noun a kind of natural glass produced when molten lava cools very rapidly • Hypernyms: ↑volcanic rock • Hyponyms: ↑obsidian, ↑pitchstone, ↑tachylite …   Useful english dictionary

  • volcanic glass — volcan′ic glass′ n. gel a natural glass produced when molten lava cools very rapidly; obsidian • Etymology: 1830–40 …   From formal English to slang

  • volcanic glass — noun Date: circa 1840 natural glass produced by the cooling of molten lava too rapidly to permit crystallization …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • volcanic glass — /vɒlkænɪk ˈglas/ (say volkanik glahs) noun a natural glass produced when molten lava cools very rapidly; obsidian …   Australian-English dictionary

  • volcanic glass — noun another term for obsidian …   English new terms dictionary

  • Volcanic ash — consists of small tephra, which are bits of pulverized rock and glass created by volcanic eruptions,United States Geological Survey. [http://volcanoes.usgs.gov/Hazards/What/Tephra/tephra.html Tephra: Volcanic Rock and Glass Fragments.] Retrieved… …   Wikipedia

  • Volcanic — Vol*can ic, a. [Cf. F. volcanique, It. vulcanico.] 1. Of or pertaining to a volcano or volcanoes; as, volcanic heat. [1913 Webster] 2. Produced by a volcano, or, more generally, by igneous agencies; as, volcanic tufa. [1913 Webster] 3. Changed or …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”