Project LANCE: Very Large Sapphire Windows

Sapphire’s Physical Attributes

Sapphire is a desirable material for military and other high-performance applications due to its hardness and strength, transparency in the visible and infrared (IR) spectrum, thermal conductivity, thermal shock resistance, abrasion resistance, high melting point and chemical inertness. As a result, it is ideally suited for IR windows in extreme environments where material durability is just as important as optical clarity.

Sapphire is used as a component in semiconductor wafer processing equipment because of its hardness, chemical inertness, and durability even at elevated operating temperatures. The semiconductor industry has moved to 450 mm (18”) wafers and there has been no sapphire product available with the required dimensions, so other, less durable, materials have been substituted. We expect that Rubicon’s LANCE sapphire, when commercially available, will meet a need in this market.

As military sensor technology continues to advance, so too does the demand for sapphire windows capable of withstanding the harsh environments where such sensors are required. Rubicon has developed an entirely new sapphire crystal growth platform capable of growing very large, thick windows – 14 x 20 x 1.5 inches – of optical quality sapphire for military sensing applications.

Previous growth technologies that produce large-area sapphire crystals are incapable of generating the thickness required for demanding defense applications; Rubicon expects to grow panels two inches thick. Supported by a contract from the Air Force Research Laboratory, Manufacturing and Industrial Technology Division, Rubicon will scale production to meet the current and future requirements of the Air Force, progressing to windows as large as 36 x 18 x 0.8 inches.

Initial applications for this product will include supersonic aerospace systems that require protective windows able to maintain excellent transmission characteristics in the visible and IR range and to protect onboard imaging systems. Additional military protective applications for large sapphire windows—as well as commercial and industrial applications—are also likely to arise. (more)


Sapphire’s Physical Attributes

A likely commercial application of very large sapphire panels
is in semiconductor manufacturing equipment. (more)