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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/C005252/1
Title: Fabrication of structured composite optical ceramics
Principal Investigator: Baker, Professor HJ
Other Investigators:
Hall, Professor D
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Sch of Engineering and Physical Science
Organisation: Heriot-Watt University
Scheme: Standard Research (Pre-FEC)
Starts: 01 December 2004 Ends: 31 May 2006 Value (£): 97,665
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Materials Characterisation Optical Devices & Subsystems
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:  
Summary on Grant Application Form
Optical components are basic to the technologies of lasers and photonics applications (e.g. wideband telecommunicationsl, lighting, video displays etc) and traditionally they have been made from optical glasses, inorganic crystals and most recently, polymers. Each of these materials has limitations such as high cost, fabrication difficulties, incompatibilty with advanced designs or lack of durability and this has encouraged the recent development of transparent ceramic as a new class of optical materials. Ceramics are well known for their low cost, durability, heat resistance, etc. but are not usually associated with the high precision of optics. In this project, a precise fabrication method will be explored, in which liquid suspension of ultra-fine ceramic powder is electronically dispensed in the form of micro-drops from a piezo-electric nozzle. Ceramic optical components will be built up layer by layer, with the process involving vacuum drying of the material followed by sintering in a high temperature, vacuum furnace. In addition to demonstrating the properties of transparency and clarity similar to glass, the project aims to demonstrate the production of flat optical interfaces between different compositions of ceramic, for use in optical waveguides or solid-state lasers. Simple structures will be three-layer planar composites, typically with the central layer designed to exhibit some different optical properties from the outer layers, to enhance fundtionality. Development of the process will aim to provide the capability to micro-structure the transparent ceramic in 3-D by using multiple dispensers to switch between two or more ceramic formulations during the deposition of each layer. These techniques would also be applied to the fabrication of more complex graded composite optical structures. The outcome of this project will be to enable the use of ceramic materials for optical components and devices in high temperature or high power applications, particularly for lasers and waveguide technology where the capacity to fabricate multi-layer composite and graded structures would produce a radical shift in current device and component technologies that supply market sectors of high commercial significance. The longer term objective would be to enable UK industry to gain a significant share in this global market.
Key Findings
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Further Information:  
Organisation Website: http://www.hw.ac.uk