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Optical Design & Engineering

Jas Sanghera: Developing optical materials and devices at the Naval Research Laboratory

Using ceramics and novel manufacturing techniques, new materials are being developed at NRL that promise high efficiency and new device capabilities.

15 January 2013, SPIE Newsroom. DOI: 10.1117/2.3201301.03

Jas Sanghera is Branch Head of Optical Materials and Devices at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC, where he manages and technically guides about 30 scientists in all aspects of optical materials. The branch is involved with the research and development of novel glasses, crystals and ceramics with superior properties that can be leveraged for enhancing the performance of existing applications or enabling new applications.

For example, NRL has set up world-class facilities for purification of chemicals and subsequent fabrication of specialty chalcogenide glasses and fibers with low loss, high strength and high laser-damage thresholds. These are finding unique applications in infrared missile-protection systems and infrared spectroscopy. By careful design of the fiber and exploiting the high nonlinear optical properties, they can be used to make active devices, such as Raman lasers and broadband (supercontinuum) sources/lasers in the infrared wavelength region. Other active sources using rare-earth doping have also been demonstrated. NRL has also set up unique facilities for making high-purity nano-powders that can be densified to make transparent optical ceramics from hard-to-grow crystals. These ceramics are made at relatively lower temperatures and so avoid problems such as crucible interactions and evaporation, which limit sizes and compromise the quality of single crystals grown from the melt using traditional high-temperature processes. The quality of the optical ceramics is excellent and provides a path forward for making new materials with superior properties.

Currently, NRL has demonstrated fabrication of rugged windows and domes from spinel ceramic for personnel and platform protection, as well as ceramic laser materials with better thermal conductivity needed for high-power laser systems. Additionally, NRL has recently set up a cluster system for building thin-film photovoltaic devices from low-cost polycrystalline materials without breaking vacuum. The system just came on line and has already produced single-junction devices with greater than 11% efficiency.

Sanghera received his doctorate in materials science from Imperial College, London, before serving as a post-doctoral candidate at UCLA. He joined NRL in 1988. His many awards include the 2009 Sigma Xi Award for Applied Science, several DoD Technology Transfer Awards, three Publication and three Edison Patent Awards, the Federal Laboratories Consortium (FLC) National and Mid-Atlantic Awards for Excellence in Technology Transfer.
In 2011, Sanghera was co-recipient of the OSA David Richardson Medal as well as the Navy's Arthur E. Bisson Prize. He has served on several program committees for SPIE conferences and published more than 60 papers in SPIE proceedings. He was named a 2013 Fellow of SPIE.