Aluminum Oxide and Its Uses

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Aluminum oxide (Al2O3) is a white crystalline solid, odorless, tasteless, and insoluble in water. It is the most commonly used of all oxides, primarily because it is abundant, inexpensive, and has good mechanical properties. It is also the best support for most industrial catalysts, such as those used in hydrodesulfurization and some Ziegler-Natta polymerizations. It is the principal raw material in the manufacture of refractories and has a wide variety of other uses as well. It can be produced to a wide range of specifications in terms of both particle size and purity.

It is insoluble in most natural waters, but it can be dissolved in alkali solutions such as sodium hydroxide. The aluminium hydroxide is then separated from the alumina by precipitation. The alumina is then ground into a fine powder and mixed with mineral pigments to produce refractory materials like bauxite and alumina ceramics. It is also an ingredient in many types of glass. The alumina in glass helps to increase the fracture resistance of the glass. It is also used as an abrasive for polishing and grinding metals, and it is the main component of abrasive products such as grit, sandpaper, and diamond wheels. It is also used in cosmetics such as blush, lipstick, and facial powder.

Aluminum oxide is incompatible with strong oxidizers and chlorinated solvents. It reacts with halocarbon vapors to form toxic hydrogen chloride and phosgene fumes. Inhalation of finely divided alumina particles is associated with lung damage (Shaver's disease). It is also corrosive to stainless steel and some other metals.

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