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A white odorless crystalline powder that is water insoluble. It is the most commonly produced form of aluminium oxide (Al2O3). It may be prepared by various methods, and the properties vary according to the method used.
The alumina produced is of such high quality that it is used in electrical and chemical applications, aerospace parts, abrasives and for wear resistance in the manufacture of refractories. It is extremely hard and has excellent dielectric strength, high melting point, and resistance to corrosion by air, water vapor, and sulfurous atmospheres. It is also a good thermal and electrical insulator. It is the basis of the alumina ceramics that are used to protect coal fired power plant flue gas ducting and pulverized fuel lines, as well as for other applications that require a tough, wear resistant material.
Inhalation studies using tagged gamma aluminium oxide have shown that inhaled alumina behaves as an insoluble dust. The lungs clear a substantial percentage of the inhaled aluminium from the lungs. A small percentage of the remaining inhaled alumina, however, is sequestered and retained in the lungs. This is a result of alumina’s ability to act as an inert carrier and its capacity to form adsorption sites for a variety of substances including volatile organic compounds.
Alumina may contain contaminating materials such as sodium, iron(III) oxide, and calcium. It also contains small amounts of gallium, and this is the major impurity in Bayer process solutions (it is a catalyst for polymerization of ethylene oxide). Activated alumina has an improved adsorption profile than molecular sieves but requires lower regeneration temperature and less heat duty than other adsorbents.