The University of Southampton and Plasma App Limited have announced that they are collaborating in a one-year £150k feasibility study to explore novel thin film coating technology and applications.
Co-funded by the UK's innovation agency, Innovate UK and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), a major focus of the work will be materials based on Gallium, Lanthanum and Sulphur (GLS), a novel family of chalcogenide glasses. GLS materials have excellent IR transparency and improved thermal and mechanical properties - without the toxicity issues of arsenic based glasses commonly used industry-wide.
Produced by the Novel Glass Group, led by Professor Dan Hewak of the Optoelectronics Research Centre at the University of Southampton, these glasses are difficult to deposit as thick films using thermal techniques due to their complex chemistry, high melting points, and electrical insulating properties. Plasma App's novel Virtual Cathode Deposition (VCD) technique sidesteps these problems using pulsed beams of electrons to break up the GLS target material and deposit it as a thin film. Plasma App have now demonstrated very high deposition rates (> 0.2microns/min) of GLS glass onto a substrate at room temperature - over 10,000 times faster than conventional deposition by RF sputtering.
The project collaborators intend to produce well-characterised samples of a range of novel GLS based optics for dissemination to members of EPSRC-funded Chalcogenide Advanced Manufacturing Partnership. The wider community of chalcogenide glass users, especially those pursing optical applications for aerospace, defence and infrared imaging, or electronic applications such as next generation memory, will also use them.
"This project provides a clear road-map to increase the uptake of GLS glass into new technology areas that were previously considered difficult to access," explained Dmitry Yarmolich, Plasma App CEO.
Professor Dan Hewak said: "We want to be able to give end users of IR optics a safe, robust, and high performance alternative to arsenic based glasses and a faster more accurate deposition method."