Transparent Composite Utilizing Nonlinear Optical Polymers

Report No. ARL-TR-4287
Authors: Daniel J. O'Brien; Joshua A. Orlicki; J. Derek Demaree; James K. Hirvonen
Date/Pages: September 2007; 30 pages
Abstract: Polymer composites are attractive candidates for lightweight armor applications and can be made transparent by matching constituent refractive indices (RIs). Unfortunately, RI matching is difficult since the indices must be matched to approximately the third decimal place, and the matrix RI is very sensitive to factors such as temperature and stress state. Therefore, index-matched systems are transparent only over a narrow temperature range. In order to capitalize on the superior properties of polymer composites in transparent armor applications, novel techniques are needed that can dynamically account for small changes in the RI. In this report, we investigate transparent composites that utilize polymer matrices whose RIs can be modulated in real time. Glass-reinforced composites are manufactured using polymers that incorporate nonlinear optical (NLO) chromophores-small molecules whose RI can be changed with an applied electric field. We find that by utilizing typical NLO chromophores, the polymer matrix has insufficient electro-optical response for significant RI modulation.
Distribution: Approved for public release
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Last Update / Reviewed: September 1, 2007