Optical domes, also known as hemispheric optical windows, play a crucial role in transmitting light while providing a protective boundary between two systems or environments. These specialized optical components are commonly used to safeguard fragile optical systems in demanding applications. For instance, in aerospace engineering, optical domes protect LIDAR optical sensors from the impact of fast-moving objects.
At Avantier, we possess the expertise to produce custom optical domes in a wide variety of substrates and sizes. Whether you require enhanced durability for high-pressure environments or precise optical quality, our team can design and manufacture the perfect optical dome tailored to your specific application.
Types of Optical Domes
The choice of substrate will determine whether a particular optical dome is suitable for visible, ultraviolet, or infrared optical applications. Here we’ll look at a few popular choices when it comes to optical domes.
BK7 Fused Silica: Ideal for visible light applications, this substrate offers optimal transmission in the 300 nm to 2 µm wavelength range. It is resistant to high pressure and chemical etching. For UV-range light transmission, Avantier can manufacture optical glass domes with UV-grade fused silica.
Sapphire: Well-suited for infrared optical applications, sapphire transmits up to eighty percent of light in the 2-5 µm wavelength range. It is extremely resistant to scratching and abrasion, making it an excellent choice for defense applications and high-pressure environments, such as underwater cameras for deep-sea exploration.
Germanium: Transmitting light between 2-14 μm, germanium domes can be manufactured with a diamond anti-reflection (AR) coating to enhance durability in harsh environments.
Zinc Selenide (ZnSe): Suitable for IR domes, ZnSe has excellent optical properties and a broader wavelength range (3 µm to 16 µm) than sapphire. However, it is less hard and best used in more controlled environments. Anti-reflection coatings are recommended due to its high index of refraction.
MgF2 Ceramic: Offering high transmission between 2 µm to 7.5 µm, MgF2 ceramic domes have a high flexural strength rating and 1350 kg mm² Knoop hardness rating. The hot press manufacturing method allows greater flexibility in dome shape and size, making it a preferred substrate for launch tubes and missiles.
Applications of Optical Domes
Optical domes are also used for weather monitoring, navigation systems, half-space observation, head protection optics, and in security technology.
Optical domes find applications in various optical systems, including:
- Underwater Cameras and Imaging: In deep-sea environments, optical domes enable smooth functioning of precision optical assemblies within high-pressure conditions. They keep water out of the optic system while providing a clear field of view for submersible ROVs and AUVs.
- Defense: Infrared optical domes are crucial for heat-seeking missiles, providing a wide range of viewing directions without beam deflection. Durable substrates like sapphire or MgF2 perform well even under extreme conditions.
- Weather Monitoring: Optical domes are used in weather monitoring systems to protect optical components while allowing accurate measurements.
- Navigation Systems: Optical domes play a vital role in navigation systems, ensuring precision and protection.
- Head Protection Optics: In certain applications, optical domes are used to protect the head while allowing optical functionality.
- Security Technology: Optical domes are utilized in security systems for surveillance and monitoring purposes.
Optical Domes at Avantier
At Avantier, we specialize in creating custom optical domes tailored to meet our customer’s specific requirements. Instead of offering a static list of catalog options, we collaborate closely with our clients to understand their applications and recommend suitable substrates, coatings, and geometric designs for optimal performance.
Our optical engineers possess expertise in creating high-precision geometric designs and selecting appropriate optical coatings. With access to various substrate materials, including fused silica, sapphire, MgF2, and ZnSe, we can develop special adapter interface surface designs with mechanical mounts customized for your application.
Our state-of-the-art in-house manufacturing equipment enables us to manufacture optical domes with tight tolerances, providing precision optics at competitive prices. Contact us today to initiate the design process and schedule an introductory consultation. Experience the reliability and quality of Avantier’s custom optical domes for your next optical system project.
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