Aluminum Oxynitride (ALON® Transparent Ceramic) and Magnesia Aluminate Spinel (Spinel) combine broadband transparency with excellent mechanical properties. Their cubic structure means that they are transparent in their polycrystalline form, allowing them to be manufactured by conventional powder processing techniques.
Surmet has scaled up its ALON® production capability to produce and deliver windows as large as 4.4 sq ft. We have also produced our first 6 sq ft window. We are in the process of producing 7 sq ft ALON® window blanks for armor applications; and scale up to even larger, high optical quality blanks for Recce window applications is underway.
Surmet also produces spinel for customers that require superior transmission at the longer wavelengths in the mid wave infra-red (MWIR). Spinel windows have been limited to smaller sizes than have been achieved with ALON. To date the largest spinel window produced is 11x18-in, and windows 14x20-in size are currently in process. Surmet is now scaling up its spinel processing capability to produce high quality window blanks as large as 19x27-in for sensor applications.
The requirements for modern aircraft based reconnaissance systems are driving the need for conformal windows for future sensor systems. However, limitations on optical systems and the ability to produce windows in complex geometries currently limit the geometry of existing windows and window assemblies to faceted assemblies of flat windows.
ALON consists primarily of aluminum and oxygen, similar to that of alumina, with a small amount of nitrogen added to help stabilize the cubic gamma-AlON phase. ALON’s chemical similarity to alumina, translates into a robust manufacturing process. This ease of processing has allowed Surmet to produce ALON windows and domes in a wide variety of geometries and sizes.
Spinel (MgAl2O4) contains equal molar amounts of MgO and Al2O3, and is a cubic material, that transmits further into the Infrared than ALON. Spinel is produced via powder processing techniques similar to those used to produce ALON. Surmet is now applying the lessons learned with ALON to produce conformal spinel windows and domes as well.
Surmet continuously strives to develop novel, advanced optical ceramics products for current and future defense and
commercial systems. Using conventional powder processing techniques, Surmet has made substantial progress in its ability
to manufacture large ALON® sensor windows, lenses, domes and transparent armor. In addition to transparency, Surmet
has demonstrated the ability to incorporate other capabilities into its optical ceramic components, including: EMI shielding,
heating, internal antennas and cooling channels.
Working closely with the University of Rochester, Surmet has developed gradient index (GRIN) optics in ALON for
use in the visible through the MWIR applications. Surmet has demonstrated the ability to tailor the refractive index of
ALON® Optical Ceramic by either varying its composition or through the addition of dopants. Smooth axial and radial
gradient profiles with ~0.055 change in refractive index, over depths of 1-8 mm (axial) and over 20 mm radius (radial)
have been demonstrated. Initial design studies have shown that such elements provide unique capabilities. Radial gradients
in particular, with their optical power contribution, provide additional degrees of freedom for color correction in broadband
Surmet continues to mature ALON® GRIN technology along with the associated metrology. Surmet is committed to
the development of its ALON® GRIN capability as well as finding insertion opportunities in novel imaging solutions for
military and other commercial systems.
Aluminum Oxynitride (ALON® Optical Ceramic) combines broadband transparency with excellent mechanical properties. ALON’s cubic structure means that it is transparent in its polycrystalline form, allowing it to be manufactured by conventional powder processing techniques. Surmet controls every aspect of the manufacturing process, beginning with synthesis of ALON® powder, continuing through forming/heat treatment of blanks, ending with optical fabrication of ALON® windows. Surmet has made significant progress in its production capability in recent years. Additional scale up of Surmet’s manufacturing capability, for complex geometries, larger sizes and higher quantities, is underway. The requirements for modern aircraft are driving the need for conformal windows for future sensor systems. However, limitations on optical systems and the ability to produce windows in complex geometries currently limit the geometry of existing windows and window assemblies to faceted assemblies of flat windows. Surmet’s ability to produce large curved ALON® blanks is an important step in the development of conformal windows for future aircraft applications.
Durable coatings of silicon-carbon-oxy-nitride (a.k.a. SiCON) are being developed to protect high-speed missile windows from the environmental loads during flight. Originally developed at Rockwell Scientific Corporation (RSC) these coatings exhibited substantial promise, but were difficult to deposit. Under a DoD DARPA SBIR Phase I program, Surmet Corporation, working closely with RSC, is depositing these coatings using an innovative vacuum vapor deposition process. High rate of coating deposition and the ease of manipulating the process variables, make Surmet’s process suitable for the deposition of substantially thick films (up to 30 μm) with precisely controlled chemistry. Initial work has shown encouraging results, and the refinement of the coating and coating process is still underway. Coupons of SiN and SiCON coatings with varying thickness on a variety of substrates such as Si-wafer, ZnS and ALON were fabricated and used for the study. This paper will present and discuss the results of SiN and SiCON coatings deposition and characterization (physical, mechanical and optical properties) as a basis for evaluating their suitability for high speed missile windows application.