A new aluminum oxide formula and process developed by researchers at the University of Washington has promise for the creation of a new aluminum-rich coating that can be used in products ranging from aircraft to electronics.
The research, reported this week in the journal Science Advances, is the first to show the properties of aluminum oxide, a compound that has been in development for decades but is not widely available.
Alum is a rare element that has many properties that are not found in other metals, such as toughness, hardness and electrical conductivity.
Aluminum oxide’s ability to store the properties that make aluminum attractive in products is an important step toward its wide use in the electronics industry.
Aluminium oxide is used in high-temperature supercapacitors and to make high-quality electrical contacts for devices such as wireless devices, solar cells and lasers.
It is also used as an insulator in automotive electronics.
In the study, lead author James R. Hahn of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California, and his colleagues showed that aluminum oxide can be a promising metal for a number of applications, including electrical and mechanical components.
Aluminum oxide’s properties are well known, and it can be made from virtually any metal.
“This study shows that it can work in this specific situation, which is a very promising application,” said Hahn, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the UW.
The researchers were able to use the material’s high toughness to form an aluminum oxide coating on a copper-coated aluminum substrate.
The coating is applied to aluminum surfaces, which can be cured, and then the aluminum oxide is applied as a powder onto a copper substrate, forming a second layer of the aluminum alloy.
The next step is to test the new coating’s ability on a range of other metals and to see how well it protects against corrosion.
“We are very excited about this because this material has a long history of use in materials science and in the aerospace industry,” said study co-author James P. O’Brien, a UW professor of materials science.
The findings are important because aluminum oxide has been a major focus of the aerospace and defense industries for more than 30 years.
“If we can develop a coating that has these properties, that has a high-performance property and also has low toxicity, then it would be a very attractive material for use in aerospace applications,” O’Connor said.
The team is also working on the next step, which could include the development of a high performance aluminum oxide film, which would be applied to aircraft engines.
The process, which was designed by the UW Materials Science and Engineering Department, could be applied in a variety of industries, including aerospace, automotive, aerospace materials, aerospace composite materials, and materials for solar energy.
“Aluminum oxide is very versatile and can be combined with other metals to make many different applications,” said lead author David D. Pritchard, also a UW materials scientist.
“It’s very exciting to see that this is something that could be used to coat aircraft, for example, and for aerospace composite material.”
The research was supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 595-098664.
This story was updated to include comments from Alvaro Martinez.