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Transparent ALON Windows are Currently Being Evaluated for Use in Many Laser Applications

ALON® windows and domes are being evaluated in many airborne laser based systems including Airborne laser data links, Counter Manpads, Laser rangefinders, Laser target designators, Laser radars, etc. Transparencies are used to isolate the laser system from the outside world. In this case, transparency is defined as either a window or a dome. This means that the laser beam must transmit through the transparency with high efficiency, low absorption and low scatter and with only very minimal distortion.

In addition, the transparencies must survive the rigors of the flight environment while maintaining the above high levels of optical performance. Environmental loading includes high speed rain drop or hail impacts and sand erosion. Poor durability of the transparency, leads to increased scatter, loss of transmission and a corresponding decrease in optical performance. In extreme cases this damage can also lead to subsurface fractures and the loss of the transparency’s mechanical integrity.

ALON® Optical Ceramic provides enormous advantages over glass transparencies because of its superior durability. ALON is inherently harder and stronger (because of its covalent nature), and is 10x more resistant to sand or dust erosion than glass, and can survive rain impacts at aircraft flight velocities without damage.

ALON’s cubic structure makes it optically isotropic, so that light propagates through it the same in every direction. This is in sharp contrast to sapphire whose rhombohedral crystal structure makes it intrinsically bi-refringent, and therefore undesirable for many sensitive laser applications.

ALON® is made using conventional ceramic powder processing techniques and is amenable to large scale manufacturing in many sizes and shapes.

Founded in 1982, Surmet Corporation is an Advanced Materials Technology and solutions company, with a vertically integrated manufacturing capability. Surmet is headquartered in Burlington, MA and has R&D and manufacturing facilities in Buffalo, NY and Murrieta, CA. In addition to ALON, Surmet is a leading manufacturer of high strength fine-grained Magnesia Spinel optical components. Surmet also is a leader in making Aluminum Nitride (AlN) powder and sintered AlN bodies with high thermal conductivity.

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