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Aluminum oxynitride manufacturing process

Aluminum oxynitride is a transparent polycrystalline ceramic. It is composed of aluminum, oxygen and nitrogen. This remarkable material is transparent in the near-ultraviolent, visible and mid-infrared wavelengths. It is also exceptionally strong and resistant to corrosion, oxidation and radiation. Aluminum oxynitride has a melting point of 2150°C. It is 3 times harder than steel of the same thickness.

Aluminum oxynitride is patented by Surmet Corporation. It is marketed under the name ALON. It can be manufactured in the shape of transparent windows, plates, domes, rods, tubes and more. ALON is the hardest transparent ceramic available commercially.

“Transparent aluminum” used to be a science fiction concept. The material, some may remember, featured prominently in the film Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. But this wonder material is now a reality. Let’s see how it’s manufactured.

What is the manufacturing process for aluminum oxynitride?

The manufacturing process starts from powdered aluminum oxynitride. The powder is poured into a rubber mould and subjected to pressure. This procedure is called isostatic pressing.

Aluminum oxynitride then undergoes heat treatment at 2000°C. This changes its form from a grainy structure to a cloudy material. The following steps are grinding and polishing. These final procedures enhance its transparency and mechanical properties.

Aluminum oxynitride manufactured with this method has the disadvantage of a high porosity. This leads to a relatively low transparency. An alternate manufacturing process has been developed in 2010 to solve the problem. In this new process, a sintering additive is added to the source powder. The material is pre-sintered and then sintered at high temperatures. This procedure reduces its porosity. The resulting aluminium oxynitride is 95% transparent.

What are the applications of aluminum oxynitride?

With its extraordinary strength, combined with low weight and thinness, aluminum oxynitride makes for an effective transparent armour. It can be used in a wide range of defence applications, including blast-resistant windows and specialty infrared domes. Surmet currently supplies ALON sensor windows for helicopters and ground vehicles. Such windows are stronger than traditional bulletproof glass. They resist scratching from sand and impact with rocks.

Aluminum oxynitride can find applications in a wide range of industries beside defence. Examples include aerospace, energy, mining and consumer products.

Some of the possible applications for ALON are:

  • Semiconductors
  • Heat resistant materials and heat sinks
  • Insulators
  • Optoelectronic devices
  • Integrated circuit substrates
  • Thermally conductive filler material
  • Cell phone protector screens

Conro Electronics is a leading supplier of materials and tools in the electronic manufacturing industry.

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