Aluminium oxide

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This article is about aluminium(III) oxide, Al2O3. For other uses, see Aluminium oxide (compounds).
Aluminium oxide
Aluminium oxide2.jpg
1344-28-1 YesY
ATC code D10AX04
ChemSpider 8164808 YesY
Jmol interactive 3D Image
PubChem 9989226
RTECS number BD120000
UNII LMI26O6933 YesY
Molar mass 101.96 g·mol−1
Appearance white solid
Odor odorless
Density 3.95–4.1 g/cm3
Melting point 2,072 °C (3,762 °F; 2,345 K)[1]
Boiling point 2,977 °C (5,391 °F; 3,250 K)[2]
Solubility insoluble in diethyl ether
practically insoluble in ethanol
Thermal conductivity 30 W·m−1·K−1[3]
Birefringence 0.008
Trigonal, hR30, space group = R3c, No. 167
50.92 J·mol−1·K−1[4]
−1675.7 kJ·mol−1[4]
Safety data sheet See: data page
Not listed.
NFPA 704
Flammability code 0: Will not burn. E.g., water Health code 1: Exposure would cause irritation but only minor residual injury. E.g., turpentine Reactivity code 0: Normally stable, even under fire exposure conditions, and is not reactive with water. E.g., liquid nitrogen Special hazards (white): no codeNFPA 704 four-colored diamond
Flash point Non-flammable
US health exposure limits (NIOSH):
OSHA 15 mg/m3 (Total Dust)
OSHA 5 mg/m3 (Respirable Fraction)
ACGIH/TLV 10 mg/m3
Related compounds
Other anions
aluminium hydroxide
Other cations
boron trioxide
gallium oxide
indium oxide
thallium oxide
Supplementary data page
Refractive index (n),
Dielectric constantr), etc.
Phase behaviour
YesY verify (what is YesYN ?)
Infobox references

Aluminium oxide is a chemical compound of aluminium and oxygen with the chemical formula Al2O3. It is the most commonly occurring of several aluminium oxides, and specifically identified as aluminium(III) oxide. It is commonly called alumina, and may also be called aloxide, aloxite, or alundum depending on particular forms or applications. It commonly occurs in its crystalline polymorphic phase α-Al2O3, in which it composes the mineral corundum, varieties of which form the precious gemstones ruby and sapphire. Al2O3 is significant in its use to produce aluminium metal, as an abrasive owing to its hardness, and as a refractory material owing to its high melting point.[6]

Natural occurrence[edit]

Corundum is the most common naturally occurring crystalline form of aluminium oxide. Rubies and sapphires are gem-quality forms of corundum, which owe their characteristic colors to trace impurities. Rubies are given their characteristic deep red color and their laser qualities by traces of chromium. Sapphires come in different colors given by various other impurities, such as iron and titanium.


Aluminium oxide in its powdered form.
Aluminium oxide in its powdered form.

Al2O3 is an electrical insulator but has a relatively high thermal conductivity (30 Wm−1K−1[3]) for a ceramic material. Aluminium oxide is insoluble in water. In its most commonly occurring crystalline form, called corundum or α-aluminium oxide, its hardness makes it suitable for use as an abrasive and as a component in cutting tools.[6]

Aluminium oxide is responsible for the resistance of metallic aluminium to weathering. Metallic aluminium is very reactive with atmospheric oxygen, and a thin passivation layer of aluminium oxide (4 nm thickness) forms on any exposed aluminium surface.[7] This layer protects the metal from further oxidation. The thickness and properties of this oxide layer can be enhanced using a process called anodising. A number of alloys, such as aluminium bronzes, exploit this property by including a proportion of aluminium in the alloy to enhance corrosion resistance. The aluminium oxide generated by anodising is typically amorphous, but discharge assisted oxidation processes such as plasma electrolytic oxidation result in a significant proportion of crystalline aluminium oxide in the coating, enhancing its hardness.

Aluminium oxide was taken off the United States Environmental Protection Agency's chemicals lists in 1988. Aluminium oxide is on EPA's Toxics Release Inventory list if it is a fibrous form.[8]

Amphoteric nature[edit]

Aluminium oxide is an amphoteric substance, meaning it can react with both acids and bases, such as hydrofluoric acid and sodium hydroxide, acting as an acid with a base and a base with an acid, neutralising the other and producing a salt.

Al2O3 + 6 HF → 2 AlF3 + 3 H2O
Al2O3 + 6 NaOH + 3 H2O → 2 Na3Al(OH)6 (sodium aluminate)


Corundum from Brazil, size about 2×3 cm.

The most common form of crystalline aluminium oxide is known as corundum, which is the thermodynamically stable form.[9] The oxygen ions nearly form a hexagonal close-packed structure with aluminium ions filling two-thirds of the octahedral interstices. Each Al3+ center is octahedral. In terms of its crystallography, corundum adopts a trigonal Bravais lattice with a space group of R-3c (number 167 in the International Tables). The primitive cell contains two formula units of aluminium oxide.

Aluminium oxide also exists in other phases, including the cubic γ and η phases, the monoclinic θ phase, the hexagonal χ phase, the orthorhombic κ phase and the δ phase that can be tetragonal or orthorhombic.[9][10] Each has a unique crystal structure and properties. Cubic γ-Al2O3 has important technical applications. The so-called β-Al2O3 proved to be NaAl11O17.[11]

Molten aluminium oxide near the melting temperature is roughly 2/3 tetrahedral (i.e. 2/3 of the Al are surrounded by 4 oxygen neighbors), and 1/3 5-coordinated, very little (<5%) octahedral Al-O is present.[12] Around 80% of the oxygen atoms are shared among three or more Al-O polyhedra, and the majority of inter-polyhedral connections are corner-sharing, with the remaining 10–20% being edge-sharing.[12] The breakdown of octahedra upon melting is accompanied by a relatively large volume increase (~20%), the density of the liquid close to its melting point is 2.93 g/cm3.[13]


Aluminium hydroxide minerals are the main component of bauxite, the principal ore of aluminium. A mixture of the minerals comprise bauxite ore, including gibbsite (Al(OH)3), boehmite (γ-AlO(OH)), and diaspore (α-AlO(OH)), along with impurities of iron oxides and hydroxides, quartz and clay minerals.[14] Bauxites are found in laterites. Bauxite is purified by the Bayer process:

AlO(OH) + H2O + NaOH → NaAl(OH)4
Al(OH)3 + NaOH → NaAl(OH)4

Except for SiO2, the other components of bauxite do not dissolve in base. Upon filtering the basic mixture, Fe2O3 is removed. When the Bayer liquor is cooled, Al(OH)3 precipitates, leaving the silicates in solution.

NaAl(OH)4 → NaOH + Al(OH)3

The solid Al(OH)3 Gibbsite is then calcined (heated to over 1100C) to give aluminium oxide:[6]

2 Al(OH)3 → Al2O3 + 3 H2O

The product aluminium oxide tends to be multi-phase, i.e., consisting of several phases of aluminium oxide rather than solely corundum.[10] The production process can therefore be optimized to produce a tailored product. The type of phases present affects, for example, the solubility and pore structure of the aluminium oxide product which, in turn, affects the cost of aluminium production and pollution control.[10]

For its application as an electrical insulator in integrated circuits, where conformal growth of thin film is a prerequisite and the preferred growth mode is atomic layer deposition, Al2O3 films were prepared by the chemical exchange between trimethylaluminum Al(CH3)3 and H2O:[15]

2 Al(CH3)3 + 3 H2O → Al2O3 + 6 CH4

H2O in the above reaction was subsequently replaced by ozone (O3) as the active oxidant and the following reaction took place:[16][17]

2 Al(CH3)3 + O3 → Al2O3 + 3 C2H6

The Al2O3 films prepared using O3 show 10–100 times lower leakage current density compared with those prepared by H2O.

Known as alundum (in fused form) or aloxite[18] in the mining, ceramic, and materials science communities, aluminium oxide finds wide use. Annual world production of aluminium oxide in 2014 was approximately 108 million tonnes, over 95% of which is used in the manufacture of aluminium metal.[6] The major uses of specialty aluminium oxides are in refractories, ceramics, polishing and abrasive applications. Large tonnages of aluminium hydroxide, from which alumina is derived, are used in the manufacture of zeolites, coating titania pigments, and as a fire retardant/smoke suppressant.


The great majority of aluminium oxide is consumed for the production of aluminium, usually by the Hall–Héroult process.


Being fairly chemically inert and white, aluminium oxide is a favored filler for plastics. Aluminium oxide is a common ingredient in sunscreen and is sometimes present in cosmetics such as blush, lipstick, and nail polish.


Many formulations of glass have aluminium oxide as an ingredient.


Aluminium oxide catalyses a variety of reactions that are useful industrially. In its largest scale application, aluminium oxide is the catalyst in the Claus process for converting hydrogen sulfide waste gases into elemental sulfur in refineries. It is also useful for dehydration of alcohols to alkenes.

Aluminium oxide serves as a catalyst support for many industrial catalysts, such as those used in hydrodesulfurization and some Ziegler-Natta polymerizations.


Aluminium oxide is widely used to remove water from gas streams. Other major applications are described below.[19]


Aluminium oxide is used for its hardness and strength. It is widely used as an abrasive, including as a much less expensive substitute for industrial diamond. Many types of sandpaper use aluminium oxide crystals. In addition, its low heat retention and low specific heat make it widely used in grinding operations, particularly cutoff tools. As the powdery abrasive mineral aloxite, it is a major component, along with silica, of the cue tip "chalk" used in billiards. Aluminium oxide powder is used in some CD/DVD polishing and scratch-repair kits. Its polishing qualities are also behind its use in toothpaste. Aluminium oxide can be grown as a coating on aluminium by anodising or by plasma electrolytic oxidation (see the "Properties" above). Both its strength and abrasive characteristics originate from the high hardness (9 on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness) of aluminium oxide.

Aluminium oxide output in 2005


Aluminium oxide flakes are used in paint for reflective decorative effects, such as in the automotive or cosmetic industries.

Composite fiber[edit]

Aluminium oxide has been used in a few experimental and commercial fiber materials for high-performance applications (e.g., Fiber FP, Nextel 610, Nextel 720).[20] Alumina nanofibers in particular have become a research field of interest.

Abrasion protection[edit]

Alumina is used to manufacture tiles which are attached inside pulverized fuel lines and flue gas ducting on coal fired power stations to protect high wear areas. They are not suitable for areas with high impact forces as these tiles are brittle and susceptible to breakage.


Aluminum oxide is used as catalyst for the decomposition of hydrazine in Chemical-reaction Monopropellant rockets.[clarification needed][citation needed]

In lighting, transparent aluminium oxide is used in some sodium vapor lamps.[21] Aluminium oxide is also used in preparation of coating suspensions in compact fluorescent lamps.

In chemistry laboratories, aluminium oxide is a medium for chromatography, available in basic (pH 9.5), acidic (pH 4.5 when in water) and neutral formulations.

Health and medical applications include it as a material in hip replacements.[6]

As well, it is used as a dosimeter for radiation protection and therapy applications for its optically stimulated luminescence properties.[citation needed]

Aluminium oxide is an electrical insulator used as a substrate (silicon on sapphire) for integrated circuits but also as a tunnel barrier for the fabrication of superconducting devices such as single electron transistors and superconducting quantum interference devices (SQUIDs).

Insulation for high-temperature furnaces is often manufactured from aluminium oxide. Sometimes the insulation has varying percentages of silica depending on the temperature rating of the material. The insulation can be made in blanket, board, brick and loose fiber forms for various application requirements.

Small pieces of aluminium oxide are often used as boiling chips in chemistry.

It is also used to make spark plug insulators.

Using a plasma spray process and mixed with titania, it is coated onto the braking surface of some bicycle rims to provide abrasion and wear resistance.[citation needed]

Most ceramic eyes on fishing rods are circular rings made from aluminum oxide.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Patnaik, P. (2002). Handbook of Inorganic Chemicals. McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0-07-049439-8. 
  2. ^ Raymond C. Rowe; Paul J. Sheskey; Marian E. Quinn (2009). "Adipic acid". Handbook of Pharmaceutical Excipients. Pharmaceutical Press. pp. 11–12. ISBN 978-0-85369-792-3. 
  3. ^ a b Material Properties Data: Alumina (Aluminum Oxide). Retrieved on 2013-04-17.
  4. ^ a b Zumdahl, Steven S. (2009). Chemical Principles 6th Ed. Houghton Mifflin Company. ISBN 0-618-94690-X. 
  5. ^ a b "NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards #0021". National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). 
  6. ^ a b c d e "Alumina (Aluminium Oxide) – The Different Types of Commercially Available Grades". The A to Z of Materials. Archived from the original on 10 October 2007. Retrieved 2007-10-27. 
  7. ^ Campbell, Timothy; Kalia, Rajiv; Nakano, Aiichiro; Vashishta, Priya; Ogata, Shuji; Rodgers, Stephen (1999). "Dynamics of Oxidation of Aluminium Nanoclusters using Variable Charge Molecular-Dynamics Simulations on Parallel Computers" (PDF). Physical Review Letters 82 (24): 4866. Bibcode:1999PhRvL..82.4866C. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.82.4866. 
  8. ^ "EPCRA Section 313 Chemical List For Reporting Year 2006" (PDF). US EPA. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-07-16. Retrieved 2008-09-30. 
  9. ^ a b I. Levin and D. Brandon (1998). "Metastable Alumina Polymorphs: Crystal Structures and Transition Sequnces". Journal of the American Ceramic Society 81 (8): 1995–2012. doi:10.1111/j.1151-2916.1998.tb02581.x. 
  10. ^ a b c Paglia, G. (2004). "Determination of the Structure of γ-Alumina using Empirical and First Principles Calculations Combined with Supporting Experiments" (free download). Curtin University of Technology, Perth. Retrieved 2009-05-05. 
  11. ^ Wiberg, E. and Holleman, A. F. (2001). Inorganic Chemistry. Elsevier. ISBN 0-12-352651-5. 
  12. ^ a b Skinner, L.B.; et al. (2013). "Joint diffraction and modeling approach to the structure of liquid alumina". Phys. Rev. B 87: 024201. Bibcode:2013PhRvB..87b4201S. doi:10.1103/PhysRevB.87.024201. 
  13. ^ Paradis, P.-F.; et al. (2004). "Non-Contact Thermophysical Property Measurements of Liquid and Undercooled Alumina". Jap. J. Appl. Phys. 43 (4): 1496–1500. Bibcode:2004JaJAP..43.1496P. doi:10.1143/JJAP.43.1496. 
  14. ^ "Bauxite and Alumina Statistics and Information". USGS. Archived from the original on 6 May 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-05. 
  15. ^ Higashi GS, Fleming (1989). "Sequential surface chemical reaction limited growth of high quality Al2O3 dielectrics". Appl. Phys. Lett. 55 (19): 1963–65. Bibcode:1989ApPhL..55.1963H. doi:10.1063/1.102337. 
  16. ^ Kim JB, Kwon DR, Chakrabarti K, Lee Chongmu, Oh KY, Lee JH, (2002). "Improvement in Al2O3 dielectric behavior by using ozone as an oxidant for the atomic layer deposition technique". J. Appl. Phys. 92 (11): 6739–42. Bibcode:2002JAP....92.6739K. doi:10.1063/1.1515951. 
  17. ^ Kim, Jaebum; Chakrabarti, Kuntal; Lee, Jinho; Oh, Ki-Young and Lee, Chongmu (2003). "Effects of ozone as an oxygen source on the properties of the Al2O3 thin films prepared by atomic layer deposition". Mater Chem Phys 78 (3): 733–38. doi:10.1016/S0254-0584(02)00375-9. 
  18. ^ "Aloxite". database. Retrieved 24 February 2007. 
  19. ^ Hudson, L. Keith; Misra, Chanakya; Perrotta, Anthony J.; Wefers, Karl and Williams, F. S. (2002) "Aluminum Oxide" in Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry, Wiley-VCH, Weinheim. doi:10.1002/14356007.a01_557.
  20. ^ Mallick, P.K. (2008). Fiber-reinforced composites materials, manufacturing, and design (3rd ed., [expanded and rev. ed.] ed.). Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press. pp. Ch.2.1.7. ISBN 0-8493-4205-8. 
  21. ^ "GE Innovation Timeline 1957–1970". Archived from the original on 16 February 2009. Retrieved 2009-01-12. 

External links[edit]