The project, dubbed Large-Area Net-shape Crystal Extraction (LANCE), is being supported by a grant from the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), with a total value of $4.7m over three years.
Sapphire is a desirable material 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.
Existing methods used to produce sapphire windows do not meet all the demands of military applications. Rubicon has developed a new growth platform specifically to produce very large polished sapphire infrared (IR) windows for the Air Force Research Laboratory.
Production will be scaled to meet the current and future requirements of the Air Force, beginning with intermediate sizes and progressing to windows as large as 36 x 18 x 0.8 inches. These sapphire windows will meet a variety of needs in both government and private sector applications.
“Sapphire’s exceptional physical and optical qualities offer many benefits in applications such as military IR windows,” said Raja M. Parvez, president and CEO of Rubicon Technology.
“However, producing high-quality sapphire large enough for such applications has proven difficult. This research sets the stage for many defense and industrial applications for large sapphire windows of exceptional optical quality,” said Parvez.
Existing growth technologies that produce large-area sapphire crystals are incapable of generating the thickness required for demanding defense applications. Rubicon said its technological will grow panels approximately two inches thick, which can be cut into multiple windows of varying thickness to meet the needs of the industry.