Transparent spinel ceramic

Material scientists at the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) have developed and commercialized a novel process to produce transparent spinel ceramic with qualities superior to traditional materials used for windows, protective armor, and numerous other government and private sector applications. The NRL team overcame failures in existing processing techniques to produce, for the first time, a cost-effective, high-opticalquality spinel ceramic that was more rugged than glass, transparent to more light wavelengths than sapphire, and otherwise superior to the standard commercially available materials. Within six months, the NRL team successfully transferred its spinel ceramic technology to MER Corporation of Tucson, Arizona, by providing research-based guidance and regular technical support to company personnel during initial stages of commercial production. Concurrent patent licensing and Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs) between NRL and MER expedited the transition of this new processing technique to the private company, now the first U.S. supplier of the breakthrough material. The NRL-patented processing method and its spinel ceramic product together represent notable advances over traditional processing methods and transparent materials in terms of scalability, production rates, performance, durability, costeffectiveness, and range of potential applications. The transferred technology yields material of superior strength and clarity, with marked advantages. Anticipated military applications range across the spectrum, from personnel protective items like face shields to explosive-resistant windows in aircraft, ground vehicles, and submarines, to high-energy laser systems. Commercial uses appear nearly limitless, given the ubiquity of consumer electronics using rugged transparent materials, e.g., display windows. Reduced manufacturing costs and improved performance assure that the NRL-patented spinel ceramic processes could reshape industry technologies and product standards, with the potential to capture a multibillion dollar share of the global market.
Award Year: