Magazine Article | August 11, 2017

Advanced Optical Materials For Use In Protective Windows And Transparent Armor

By Drew T. Haven, research scientist, Saint-Gobain Crystals

Choosing the proper material depends on forces experienced by the part, required wavelength range of the optics, overall weight envelope of the platform, and other design constraints.

Peak performance of sensitive optics and protection of our warfighters are critical to modern warfare. For sensitive optics, this includes protection of the optic itself and proper design of its enclosure, with the appropriate material, to limit wave-front distortion of the source. For protection of the warfighter, transparent armor (TA) designed with transparent ceramics has enabled solutions capable of providing higher levels of threat protection at greatly reduced weights and thicknesses.

Such materials allow TA to be incorporated into lightweight platforms where glass-only TA has been considered too bulky. This article surveys a range of optical materials that can be used in harsh and battlefield environments, comparing and contrasting their properties and manufacturing readiness for use in both sensitive optics and TA applications.