Application: Negative Thermal Expansion Components for Thermal Focus Stability in optics

In this video, Dr. James A. Monroe talks about how a simple change in an optic can improve the focus stability over a wide range of temperature changes.

Transcript Below

Hi, I’m James Monroe, the founder and CEO of ALLVAR. Here at ALLVAR we make the only metal in the world that shrinks when it heats up and expands when it gets cold – known as negative thermal expansion.

We constantly hear from big players in the optics industry that this is unobtainium – this is a magic material. It’s something that enables them to shrink the size and weight of optics that they currently design. They can also hit performance requirements that their customers need that are currently unobtainable.

Invar is the only other material out there [in this realm], and invar is made from iron and nickel. It was discovered in 1896; that means it’s over 130 years old. Thermal expansion is a big deal, especially for optics. Another material commonly used in ultra-stable optics is carbon fiber. It’s extremely expensive to manufacture compared to carbon fiber and invar.  ALLVAR can make smaller, more compact, and lighter systems.

For military applications. you can shrink the size and weight of infrared optics that sit on a soldier’s helmet and the savings can be reallocated to reinforce the helmet itself and prevent traumatic brain injury. When we talk to optics designers and manufacturers, they love this material. We’ve talked to optics guys that have designed this material into their systems for decades but never been able to find it.

The way that we found the infrared optics application is at Photonics West. We were walking around the show asking people if they needed it, and there was an engineer walking around the same show asking people for this material. We bumped into them and that that led to our first sale. We need to work with specific optics customers to prove our ALLVAR alloy technology in their specific applications. We have a NASA SBIR phase 2 just for building a prototype for ultra-stable optics applications in telescopes. Over the past three years, ALLVAR has been able to take the core all of our alloy technology from small quarter-sized pieces of material in the lab to over three-inch diameter tubes several feet long perfect for the optics industry.

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