Next generation optical systems and their components with require unique function and/or enhanced performance in compact and resilient form factors. To realize this objective an understanding of composition-dependent properties and application-specific performance is required. Integrating multiple aspects of function beyond optical behavior that considers thermal/mechanical stability with compatibility to modern manufacturing processes, will demand the use of versatile, multi-phase material solutions that can replace currently employed crystalline or amorphous materials possessing singular, discrete properties.
To realize this ambitious task, an awareness of how optical designers consider multi-functional materials and fabrication methods, to engineer multi-material interactions such as those seen in integrated photonic structures. This approach requires designs that significantly influence resulting optical quality (i.e., loss, scattering, transmission window) and ultimate in-use environmental stability (driven by non-ambient thermal stability and potential thermal mechanical mis-match). We review the need for such know-how and how novel solutions for optics that span the infrared (IR) spectral regime are being developed. We discuss applications of broadband chalcogenide glass (ChG) materials in both bulk and planar optical components. Discussed are examples related to linear and nonlinear optical properties of films and the use of photo-induced phase change attributes to push materials from glass towards glass ceramics to realize tailorable ‘effective’ optical properties. We show how such an approach will enable a re-designed toolbox of material solutions for novel optical functionality that will result in components with reduced size, weight and power at a competitive cost (SWaP-C), for use in commercial and defense optical systems.