Australian Consolidated Industries (ACI) worked in conjunction with E.J. Hartung (Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Optical Materials, and Professor of Chemistry, University of Melbourne) to produce the first optical glass in Australia.
In mid-1940, the Optical Munitions Panel arranged for one of ACI's top technical men, Mr H.G. Little, and Mr G.H. Grimwade (appointed by the Department of Munitions) to visit Canada and the USA where 'they spent three weeks "running everywhere into a brick wall of secrecy"'.(1) They found only one institution that would give them more than a rushed inspection tour: the National Bureau of Standards.
At the National Bureau of Standards, the two Australians finally found people who were prepared to share their glass-making knowledge. The scientists at the Bureau also looked over and commented on Australian Consolidated Industries' optical glass factory plans.
With the information gathered by Little and Grimwade from the National Bureau of Standards, ACI was able to check their plans for large-scale production of optical glass, make the necessary changes and establish a modern optical glass annexe at one of their subsidiary companies, Australian Window Glass Pty Ltd (in Sydney).
ACI were also instrumental in advising the Optical Munitions Panel on the location of the best Australian raw materials for the manufacture of optical glass, and the company's stockpiles of those materials required but not readily available in Australia were crucial to the success of the project.
On 21 September 1941, ACI 'produced the first large-scale batch of optical glass ever made in Australia'.(2)
Like many another wartime achievement, the making of optical glass was the result of good team work. Special mention should be made of Mr [A.W.] Warren [a chemical engineer with ACI; he was in charge of the Optical Glass Annexe between 1941-46] and Mr [J.S.] Blakeny [works chemist at Australian Glass Manufacturers Pty Ltd until 1941 and Chief Chemist at ACI between 1940-48], but to do justice it would be necessary to name all members of the tecnical staff of Australian Window Glass(3)
The production of optical glass at Australian Window Glass Pty Ltd ended in March 1945, and has not resumed in Australia. Samples of optical glass by ACI are held in the University of Melbourne Archives.
(1) D.P. Mellor (1958), 'Optical Munitions', Australia in the War of 1939-1945: The Role of Science and Industry, ch. 12, series 4: civil, vol. 5, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, p. 254.
(2) D.P. Mellor (1958), 'Optical Munitions', Australia in the War of 1939-1945: The Role of Science and Industry, ch. 12, series 4: civil, vol. 5, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, p. 257.
(3) D.P. Mellor (1958), 'Optical Munitions', Australia in the War of 1939-1945: The Role of Science and Industry, ch. 12, series 4: civil, vol. 5, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, p. 258.