03-021: Fabricating Polymers for Optical Devices

This Mason technology is a novel mild pre-processing method that imparts a uniform distribution of dye into a thermoplastic organic polymer such as plexiglas, mylar, and lexan.

Mixing occurs at the molecular level and the resulting blend is a uniformly colored polymer with minimal degradation to its optical properties. Both the dye and polymer are dissolved into a common solvent followed by precipitation into a polymer non-solvent. After evaporation of residual solvents, the polymer-dye mixture is ready for final processing.
Shorter melt mixing times is achieved with this process which constitutes a significant improvement in the pre-processing of materials requiring the use of dyes with nonlinear optical properties.

- Ensures file microphase dispersion
- Minimal loss of dye in the preparation
- Does not require preliminary synthetic manipulation of polymer or dyes
- Can be applied to any compatible polymer/dye system

Market Significance:
Standard industrial preparatory procedures are unable to provide a truly homogeneous mixture. While inhomogeneous mixtures may be acceptable where simple coloration is desired, it is not acceptable for new applications that require high dye concentrations and control of color dispersion. Melt processing, the most common method of preparation, can involve loss of up to 75% of the dye during the process which is significant if the dye is a high-cost specialty dye. Also, prolonged high temperatures in melt processing are known to cause degradation of the dye. Incorporating pigment using synthetic procedures is problematic in that the result of the process is slowed and can become very expensive Optical products, whether in the form of chemical sensors, chips, protective lenses, photonic storage and transport systems, or recordable media, require a strict dye control process.