In case you missed it, something BIG is happening in the sapphire industry.
But just what are the practical applications for a massive slab of sapphire?
First and foremost, sapphire is hard, and as a result, extremely durable. On a scale of hardness — the Mohs scale to be exact — sapphire is the second hardest naturally occurring material, next only to diamond.
This makes sapphire a clear choice over glass for use in harsh environments, such as deserts. Sapphire is harder than quartz (the main component of sand), and does not scratch as easily as glass would, making it ideal for a variety of applications that come in contact with sand. One that comes to mind is the lens of a military-issue scope. Currently, the military is beginning to swap out scopes that have lenses made of glass that scratch easily, in favor of sapphire lenses.
Besides being useful as a lens, sapphire is so hard it can be used as transparent armor — hard enough that it can even shatter a .50 caliber bullet if thick enough. This leaves endless possibilities for its use in tank windows, transport vehicles, etc.
Sapphire can withstand extreme temperatures without losing its integrity, making it ideal for space exploration. Some regions of space get less than I degree C above absolute zero. On the other hand, during re-entry, NASA says the external surfaces of spacecraft can reach a temperature in excess of 1,500 degrees Celsius. With its ability to withstand extreme high and low temperatures, sapphire is an ideal material for use in the cones of spacecraft.
Along with the ability to withstand extreme temperatures, sapphire is also known for being “radiation hard,” meaning that sapphire does not break down when exposed to radiation. Once astronauts leave the protection of earth’s magnetic field and atmosphere, radiation becomes a concern. Most materials rapidly change chemical properties under radiation exposure, but because sapphire is less susceptible, it is well suited for space exploration.
Oil and Gas
Nasty chemicals and harsh sea air take a toll on glass and metals, but sapphire is chemical-resistant. In the oil and gas industry, harsh chemicals are omnipresent, so tools and machinery need to be able to withstand the effects of exposure. Thanks to its corrosion resistance, sapphire is a perfect material for use in the oil and gas industry, specifically in the harsh remote areas where oil and gas exploration takes place.
For sapphire, the sky’s the limit when it comes to future uses. Whether it is in spacecraft or oil and gas exploration, new manufacturing methods are ensuring that sapphire will be an important material for years to come.