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Proceedings Paper

History of development of polycrystalline optical spinel in the U.S.
Author(s): Daniel C. Harris
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Paper Abstract

Optical quality polycrystalline spinel (MgAl2O4) has been sought as a visible- and infrared-transmitting material since the 1960s because of its potential for transparent armor and durable sensor windows. Its physical properties were known from synthetic crystals available since ~1950 from Linde Air Products. In the late 1960s, methods to process powder into transparent, polycrystalline spinel were investigated at North Carolina State University, General Electric Co., AVCO, and Westinghouse, mainly with Government support. The leading figure in the development of polycrystalline spinel was Don Roy, who began work on spinel at Coors Ceramics around 1970, initially for transparent armor. In the late 1970s, both Coors Ceramics and Raytheon Research Division were funded to make spinel for the infrared dome of the Advanced Short-Range Air-to-Air Missile, an application that disappeared by 1980. In the late 1980s, there was another burst of activity when spinel was a candidate for the Stinger Missile. By 1990, Raytheon had dropped spinel and the material was spun off by Coors Ceramics to Alpha Optical Systems, whose technical effort was led by Don Roy. With low commercial sales potential for spinel, Alpha was dissolved in 1993. RCS Technologies took over a Government contract seeking 200-mm spinel domes for the Harrier aircraft, but this effort ended in 1996 and RCS was dissolved. In 1998, the Army enlisted TA&T to make spinel for transparent armor. Other potential applications appeared and TA&T received numerous Government development contracts. Demand for the still-unavailable spinel drew Surmet to begin development in 2002. In early 2005, spinel is under active development at TA&T and Surmet.

Paper Details

Date Published: 18 May 2005
PDF: 22 pages
Proc. SPIE 5786, Window and Dome Technologies and Materials IX, (18 May 2005); doi: 10.1117/12.609708
Show Author Affiliations
Daniel C. Harris, Naval Air Systems Command (United States)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 5786:
Window and Dome Technologies and Materials IX
Randal W. Tustison, Editor(s)

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