Transparent ceramics have recently acquired a high degree of interest and notoriety. Basic applications include lasers and cutting tools, transparent armor windows, night vision devices (NVD) and nose cones for heat seeking missiles. Currently available infrared (IR) transparent materials typically exhibit a trade-off between optical performance and mechanical strength.
For example, sapphire (crystalline alumina) is very strong, but lacks full transparency throughout the 3–5 micrometer mid-IR range. Yttria is fully transparent from 3–5 micrometers, but lacks sufficient strength, hardness, and thermal shock resistance for high-performance aerospace applications. Not surprisingly, a combination of these two materials in the form of the yttria-alumina garnet (YAG) has proven to be one of the top performers in the field.
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