- Rubicon Technology produces large-area sapphire windows – Aerospace Manufacturing and Design: Rubicon Technology has successfully produced the first synthetic sapphire crystal of its size and thickness, meeting a key milestone in its Large-Area Net-Shape Crystal Extraction (LANCE) project. At 36″ x 18″ x 2″, this piece of sapphire will serve the demanding needs of defense applications, along with future commercial and industrial applications.
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In August 2012, Rubicon Technology announced a ground-breaking project to produce large-area sapphire windows of optical quality for military sensing applications. Dubbed Large-Area Net-shape Crystal Extraction (LANCE), the project was supported by a contract from the United States Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Electronic & Sensors Branch, Materials & Manufacturing Directorate, totaling $4.7 million over three years.
Fast forward to today.
Rubicon announced it has reached a key project milestone — successfully producing the first-ever synthetic sapphire crystal of its size and thickness, coming in at an incredible 36 x 18 x 2 inches.
Previous sapphire production methods were incapable of supporting the growth of quality sapphire at the size and thickness needed by the AFRL, so Rubicon developed a new growth platform to achieve the production of very large sapphire windows up to 2 inches thick. The process of creating sapphire of this size was incredibly complex and time-intensive, but Rubicon was determined to deliver a product unlike anything the market had ever seen before.
The military and other high-performance Industries desire sapphire at this size due to a variety of its qualities, including:
- Optical clarity in the visible and infrared spectra
- Abrasion resistance
- Thermal conductivity
Once thoroughly tested, the sapphire slab produced by Rubicon will be evaluated for use as infrared windows in extreme environments, such as space or the deep sea, where both durability and optical clarity are essential. The potential uses are almost limitless. Large-format sapphire will serve demanding applications in defense along with future commercial and industrial applications.
While the project is not yet complete, this is an encouraging breakthrough.
For more information on the LANCE project, visit http://www.rubicontechnology.com/research-development/project-lance-very-large-sapphire-windows.
Case number 88ABW-2015-0182
There are a lot of ways to make large commercial sapphire crystals. But none of them really work for making large sapphire windows using sapphire’s a-plane. We mean really wide so that they can be used in a military plane as a targeting system window. So, the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) asked Rubicon Technology to develop a new growth platform for very large polished sapphire infrared (IR) windows. The project is supported by a grant from the AFRL, with a total value of $4.7 million over three years.
Sapphire is perfect for military and other high-performance applications due to its hardness and strength, transparency in the visible and IR spectrum, thermal conductivity, thermal shock resistance, abrasion resistance, high melting point and chemical inertness. The project will begin with intermediate sizes, then will step it up to windows as large as 36 x 18 x 0.8 inches.
Why do we need this new method? Existing methods used to produce sapphire windows don’t meet the demands of military applications for thickness and size. Rubicon’s new technological platform will grow panels approximately two inches thick, which can be cut into multiple windows of varying thickness. The new method also allows growth of very large windows up to 36 x 18 inches. This is an improvement over smaller faceted windows that require piecing together for large applications.
The sapphire windows for the AFRL will be applied to fighter jet targeting systems. For example, the Lockheed-Martin F-35 Lighting Joint Strike Fighter’s fuselage has a durable sapphire window in the fuselage for use by the Electro-Optical Targeting System (EOTS). The sapphire is preferred due to its durability, hardness and strength and the way it allows transmission light in the IR spectrum.
Lockheed-Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, http://airsoc.com/articles/view/id/4fe4b7f8c6f8fa2443000009/lockheed-martin-f-35-lightning-ii-joint-strike-fighter
Rubicon Technology, http://rubicon-es2.com/index.php?page_id=23