Link to the Home page Link to the Home page
Information ForAboutResourcesToolsPracticesNewsroomSearch

Title - R&D - Technology ScansTitle - Arrow

Emerging Scanning Results: Transparent Ceramics

PATH Roadmap Applicability:


Advanced Panelized Construction


Energy Efficiency in Existing Homes


Information Technology


Whole House & Building Process Redesign


Builders may often hear these types of questions from perspective homebuyers: Why can't I have another window on this side of the home? Do I really need those obtrusive-looking shutters on the front of my house? Whether its shear capacity that limits openings in seismic regions or concerns over wind-borne debris in hurricanes, the future of glazing may yield more positive answers to these types of questions.

Transparent ceramics are being developed by the Army Research Laboratory (ARL) for armor applications. The materials exhibit enhanced thermal and mechanical properties while maintaining clear vision. The Army envisions a wide range of end use applications include face shields, windshields, and windows.

RI_Trans_Ceramics Source: Army Research Laboratory

Ceramics typically are opaque because their trapped pore structure scatters light. Transparent ceramics are manufactured with minimum porosity resulting in transmission of clear images. However, current materials of this type are prohibitively expensive using today's production methods. ARL is investigating development of low-cost transparent ceramic-based materials to replace current soda/lime/silica glass processes and polycarbonate materials. ARL estimates more-advanced single-chrystal and polychrystalline materials will reduce weight of transparent ceramic materials by 30% and thickness by 40%. 

ARL's goal is improved protection of soldiers. Thus, the focus is on uses in ground vehicles, soldier protection equipment, and other armor systems that require transparency. However, there are numerous commercial applications for this technology including for glazing in the housing market.

Application to PATH Roadmaps

The development of transparent panel products will advance the objectives of the PATH Advanced Panelization Roadmap considerably. Potential applications include high strength, impact-resistant materials that can be used for windows and skylights. Perhaps more important is that walls and other applications will have improved overall strength, especially for high-shear conditions found in high seismic and wind exposures. If the expected improvements in mechanical properties bear out, the traditional limits seen on glazing areas in today's building codes could quickly become outdated if the window area actually contributes to the shear resistance of the wall. Since the result will be improved design and resistance of homes, this technology also has application to the Whole-House Roadmap. 

Current Status of Technology

Transparent armors have been used on a limited basis in military as well as civilian applications (e.g., law enforcement). Their high cost has limited their use. ARL's program to develop low cost transparent ceramics is still in the R&D stage. They have developed proto-types to date, including a plated sapphire-based transparent armor material shown in the photograph above.

Contact Information

U.S. Army Research Laboratory
Weapons and Materials Research Directorate
Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD 21005

Content updated on 4/14/2003

Published Scanning Reports
Emerging Scanning Results
International Research Organizations
Home | Search | ToolBase | Contact Us | Privacy Policy

Text-Only Version