Science fiction fans who have watched Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home or Jurassic World may remember scenes involving super-strong transparent aluminum. Add that to the growing list of things that have gone from science fiction to science fact, as the Air Force reveals it uses transparent ceramic vehicle armor made with aluminum, oxygen, and nitrogen. Of course, that’s just one of many new uses on the horizon.
According to Phys.org:
“Transparent armor is currently used on U.S. Army Blackhawk and Chinook helicopters. ALON’s excellent durability and impact resistance have made it of interest to NASA for Cupola scratch pane windows on the International Space Station.”
This transparent armor can provide aircraft or ground vehicles with superior ballistic protection at half the thickness and weight of traditional glass laminates.
— Wright-Patterson AFB (@WrightPattAFB) June 18, 2019
The process of making ALON involves forming a powder into the desired shape and then applying high temperature and pressure. A small business called Surmet Corporation can now make sheets of ALON that are up to eight square feet.
In 2015, Popular Science reported about a transparent, lightweight, bulletproof clay called Spinel, developed by the Naval Research Laboratory and used for decades. Spinel is a transparent ceramic that allows infrared cameras to look through it, unlike commercial glass. Scientists believed the material could replace bulletproof windows while reducing weight by a factor of two or more.
— Popular Science (@PopSci) April 24, 2015
Last year, reports discussed a transparent armor made from clear synthetic sapphire gems that could “pulverize bullets” on impact.
“Currently used by the military on powerful missile launchers and state-of-the-art fighter jets, the unusual transparent armor also has wide-ranging potential to protect troops on the battlefield.”
— RealClearDefense (@RCDefense) October 20, 2018
Now for a look at clear aluminum in science fiction:
In Star Trek, The Voyage Home, Scotty, and Dr. Mccoy offer secrets for creating transparent aluminum in return for glass to construct an aquarium for whales.
Transparent Aluminium (aluminum oxynitride or ALON) is a polycrystalline ceramic composed of aluminium, oxygen and nitrogen. It's four times harder than fused silica glass and 85% as hard as sapphire. ALON-based armor has stopped multiple armor-piercing rounds of up to 50 cal. pic.twitter.com/eHGh5pbsiY
— FacTrek (@startrek_facts) March 24, 2019
See the clip below:
In Jurassic World, the bubble car, or Gyrosphere, was said to be created from an aluminum oxynitride bulletproof glass material. While ALON is not currently made in a curved form, it seems this idea may be plausible after all, along with possibly bringing back the dinosaurs, although Jurassic Park actor Jeff Goldblum doesn’t approve.
More and more ideas only imagined in the movies are now real. If we can dream it, there’s a chance we can make it happen someday.
Jimmy Fallon posed as a bumbling scientist when he shot the information video below discussing the Gyrosphere from the movie. See the video below:
Featured image: Screenshot via YouTube