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Generally used in high-end rod guides, aluminium oxide rod is stronger, lighter and stiffer than other ceramics such as silicon carbide and can be molded to shape. It is also highly corrosion resistant and has excellent electrical insulation properties.
The crystalline form of aluminium oxide is known as corundum and forms the precious gemstones ruby and sapphire. It has a Mohs hardness of 9 and is the second hardest material after diamond. It turns to the thermodynamically stable a-alumina form on heating. The a-alumina ceramic is the hardest, strongest and stiffest of all known oxide ceramics. It is produced by dissolving bauxite ore in sodium hydroxide solution to remove insoluble impurities and then heating it to give g-alumina which, on further heating, gives pure a-alumina.
It is used as abrasives because of its hardness, and for refractory materials due to its high melting point. It is also a catalyst support for industrial reactions and has been found to be particularly useful in hydrogenation reactions and hydrodesulfurization.
Alumina is the basis for many commercially available ceramics. Fuji Alconite is one such guide material that was developed to be lighter and more durable than SIC and harder than the original Fuji Hardloy ceramic material. In fact, the current version of Hardloy is the most popular and longest lasting material from which guides are made today. It is also used in some body armors where its ceramic plates are combined with aramid or UHMWPE backing.