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Star Trek Today: Transparent aluminum (aluminum oxynitride) - from Star Trek to reality

Since the fourth Star TrekFilm came out in 1986, materials scientists have wondered if transparent aluminum could really be made. Research over the past few years suggests that we may not have to wait until the 23rd century to accomplish a similar feat.

In the more than 50 years since the first episode aired in 1966, Star Trek fans always excited to see technologies that once only existed on television have become a reality - from automatic doors to tablet computers. And although some of the most anticipated technologies, such as B. Holodecks, are not (yet) fully available, there is a technology that has emerged in recent years and that is potentially even more exciting for materials scientists.

In the Star Trek universe, the term "transparent aluminum"on a transparent metal made from elemental aluminum.

Reference to Star Trek: Movie / IV - Back to the Present / The Journey Home

"In the meantime, McCoy and Scotty have appeared at Plexicorp. Scotty pretends to be a professor from Edinburgh and in return for a few materials that he needs for the Waltank offers the Plexicorp boss a formula for a completely new material (transparent aluminum ) l, which Plexicorp could develop and market. Dr. Nichols, the head of Plexicorp, goes into that. "

We can transparent aluminum not manufacture in reality, but we can approximate with two transparent ceramics made of aluminum compounds: Magnesium aluminate spinel and Aluminum oxynitride. Both connections are hard and thin like the fabled Star Trek material, but especially Aluminum oxynitride illustrates these properties.
Aluminum oxynitride is a crystalline substance made up of Aluminate powder alloys that have been highly compressed and heated to extreme temperatures. The ceramic is then cooled down, polished and given the desired shape.

The United States Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) began work on aluminum oxynitride in 2006 as part of the Defense Production Act Title III program, an investment mechanism aimed at creating, maintaining, protecting, and protecting capabilities of the domestic industrial base expand and restore. Before the collaboration was the greatest Aluminum oxynitrideWindow size limited to 2,8 square feet. The ceramic is now routinely manufactured in sizes up to 8 square feet by Surmet Corporation, a manufacturer of components made from advanced materials, under the brand name ALON.

"Reaching eight square feet is an achievement we've been working on for years and which we would not have been able to achieve without the funding of AFRL and DMS & T and other organizations," says Richard Porter, manufacturing manager for AFRL Manufacturing and Industrial Technologies Division an AFRL press release. "Making a larger window that is both lightweight and durable is a huge improvement in enabling the Warfighter to complete the mission."

Note: The term "transparent aluminum" used in popular culture can be misleading. Magnesium aluminate spinel and aluminum oxynitride are aluminum-based compounds; they are not made from elemental aluminum.