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Ceramics and Optical Materials

The next time you pull up to a stoplight you might find that it is brighter. The reason might be that the traditional stoplight has been replaced by brighter LEDs because they last longer and draw less energy. Since discussions are taking place all over the world about the effects of global warming on the environment, it is a good idea that the ceramics and optical materials are present in the stoplights.

When you are looking through your next telescope you can be sure that ceramics and optical materials are helping you to see better. Within a telescope and other similar devices you will find optical materials that either reflect or transmit light into a variety of spaces.

The materials will include glass ceramics and different compositions of glass and that will let you see better. This is why this type of material is used in many different industries including telecommunications, electronics, medical and homeland security.

Within communication devices you will find a variety of lenses. There are ball lenses, aspheric lenses and glass substrates. Ball lenses are highly polished and transparent glass balls and are usually found in devices that need a laser.

Aspheric lenses are used a lot to make lenses for people who wear glasses. They have a front surface that changes its curve from its center to the outside edge which allows the individual to have much clearer vision than in traditional lenses. It also makes a slimmer lens. Glass substrates will be found in PCs, laptops, flat panel computer monitors and LCD televisions. Basically they improve the optical performance of these products.

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Ceramics and Optical Materials in Outer Space

Another place where ceramics and optical materials are used is in exploring outer space. Basically they are used within the telescopes and are part of the mirror apparatus and can give precise pictures future out than most telescopes. As an example, an exciting breakthrough is being made at the Magdalena Ridge Observatory (MRO) in New Mexico.

A company called SCHOTT North America is building a telescope from these basic ceramic and optical materials. The telescope will be unveiled sometime in 2008 and will be able to allow scientists to see beyond the current solar system to see supernovae and black holes. Maybe they will let us know if the television program "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" actually has any validity.

One of the many interesting things about ceramics is that there are so many avenues that a manufacturer can explore when they want to create something new. This allows research departments to actively experiment with different ways of doing things and once something different it found they can bring it to market. A good example of this is Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The researchers their have developed the first material that the world has ever seen that reflects almost no light.

Ceramics and Optical Materials in New Innovations

The material is a coating that can be put on surfaces where light travels in or out of a situation. This suggests a variety of uses for the future to help cut down on UV rays in a building or home. Here are just a few ideas where this kind of coating might be useful:

- Solar cells -- it could improve the performance of the cells by increasing the amount of light that actually hits the cell.

- LEDs -- this coating could make them brighter and eliminate reflection which could be then used in something like a LED watch. This would stop them from being so bright when you are trying to see your watch in movies!

- High reflectance mirrors -- these could be made better if it were possible through this coating to be able to control the "refractive index" which is the amount of refraction light makes as it hits the mirrors.

These are just a few of the ideas that researchers are testing.

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