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Transparent Aluminum


For decades, chemical engineers have dreamed of a material that combines the strength and durability of metal with the crystal-clear purity of glass. Such a "clear metal" could be used to construct towering glass-walled skyscrapers that require less internal support. Secure military buildings could install thin transparent metal windows impervious to the highest-caliber artillery fire. And think of the monstrous aquarium you could build with this stuff!

Aluminium oxynitride or AlON is a ceramic composed of aluminium, oxygen and nitrogen. It is marketed under the name ALON by Surmet Corporation. AlON is optically transparent (≥80%) in the near-ultraviolet, visible and midwave-infrared regions of the electromagnetic spectrum. It is 4 times harder than fused silica glass, 85% as hard as sapphire, and nearly 15% harder than magnesium aluminate spinel. Since it has a cubic spinel structure, it can be fabricated to transparent windows, plates, domes, rods, tubes and other forms using conventional ceramic powder processing techniques. ALON is the hardest polycrystalline transparent ceramic available commercially. Combination of optical and mechanical properties makes this material a leading candidate for lightweight high-performance transparent armor applications such as bulletproof and blast-resistant windows and for many military infrared optics. AlON-based armor has been shown to stop multiple armor-piercing projectiles of up to 50 cal. It is commercially available in sizes as big as 18x35-inch monolithic windows.

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