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