Aluminum Nitride Properties and Applications

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Aluminum nitride (AlN) is an excellent material for a number of applications due to its high thermal conductivity, high electrical insulation and low coefficient of expansion. It is also non-toxic and provides an alternative to beryllium oxide (BeO) ceramics for applications requiring higher reliability.

A solid nitride of aluminum, AlN is one of the few materials that combine high thermal conductivity with high electrical resistivity. Its unique properties make it a critical advanced material for many future applications in optics, lighting and electronics.

The high thermal conductivity of AlN is the result of its wurtzite crystal structure and band gap of about six eV at room temperature. Unlike metals, which have high thermal conductivity through vibrations in their atomic lattice, dielectrics like AlN have their thermal conductivity through their electronic energy, known as “phonons”.

AlN has good mechanical and chemical resistance and is very durable against abrasions, impact, bending, scuffing, corrosion and high temperatures. It is easy to machine and polish and can be etched in a variety of ways. It has good refractory properties and can be mixed with other alloys to create specific properties.

AlN is used in a wide variety of manufacturing and industrial applications, from lasers to microwave devices, molten metals and glass-to-metal sealing. It is particularly well suited for high power electronics because it has a wide operating temperature range and is highly resistant to heat shocks and other environmental stresses.