Above: Walt Boger, a glassblower at UNC for more than 20 years, adheres quartz tubing to a multi-jacketed
condensation apparatus. Quartz, unlike glass, is a pure substance commonly used in the making of scientific
instruments because of its high tolerance for extreme temperatures and its ability to transmit ultraviolet light.
Left: Jim Rishel, UNC's 36-year master glassblower, works on a high vacuum system of tubing on the glass rack.
Opposite: Glassblowers use a lathe to support large pieces of glass like this cryogenic apparatus designed
for low temperature chemistry.
to translate their simple hand-drawn sketches
into finely crafted scientific apparatus.
There can be a lot of trial and error in
the process, and the variety of requests is
"Go and buy a water pump for your
car;' Rishel said. "You always get the wrong
one first. Sometimes we tell them,'No, it
can't be done like this, but we can do that
- will that work?' "
Boger added,"We'll talk with the grad
students and help them with the design-
work with them to make it something we
can fabricate properly, [including] finding
out what the parat11eters of the experin1ent
Their creations are made from a variety
of glass including Pyrex, quartz, cobalt and
uranium, and from metals including plat-
inum, silver and tungsten. Each material is
selected for its particular characteristics, such
as strength, resistance to heat and ultraviolet
transmission. Each glass has to be handled
differently. Rishel compares working with
quartz glass to welding because it requires
such intense heat. Once crafted, llieir art-
work- combinations of glass coils, t-seals,
flasks, valves and vacuum traps - leaves
their shop destined for research projects
that range from developing a better heart
valve to finding a cure for AIDS.
September / 0 ct0 ber 2 000