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 occurs naturally in its crystalline polymorphic phase α-Al2O3 as 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.
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 colours to trace impurities. Rubies are given their characteristic deep red colour and their laser qualities by traces of chromium. Sapphires come in different colours given by various other impurities, such as iron and titanium. An extremely rare, δ form, occurs as the mineral deltalumite.
Al2O3 is an electrical insulator but has a relatively high thermal conductivity (30 Wm−1K−1) 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.
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 in a matter of hundreds of picoseconds.[better source needed 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.