Understanding Ultra-Purity Aluminum



Key Highlights

  • Ultra-purity aluminum is a highly-refined type of aluminum that boasts exceptional thermal and electrical conductivity, making it ideal for use in many industry applications.
  • The purity of this form of aluminum exceeds those obtained via classical aluminum production processes, making it suitable for high-technology fields such as semiconductors, electronics, and superconducting.
  • Various methods (including electrolysis, vacuum distillation, organic electrolysis, and segregation processes) produce high-purity aluminum.
  • High-purity aluminum is desirable for its excellent corrosion resistance and electric insulation properties.
  • The applications of ultra pure aluminum range from replacing copper and gold as bonding wires in integrated circuits for transistors to the stabilization of superconductors operating at cryogenic temperatures as low as -269 degrees Celsius.


    Aluminum is the third most abundant element present in the Earth's crust. It has a range of potential applications across multiple sectors. In certain critical applications where high-purity levels are desirable or necessary, ultra-purity aluminum is crucial. The material is becoming increasingly important in high-tech industries, as it offers higher purity levels than classical aluminum production processes can achieve. In particular, it is essential for fields that require exceptional electrical and thermal conductivity.

    What Is Ultra-Purity Aluminum? 

    Ultra-purity aluminum contains targeted impurities of less than 10 parts per million (ppm). This means purity levels exceed 99.999%, also described as 5N. It is possible to achieve even higher levels of purity. For instance, metals with 5 ppm of impurities have 99.9995% purity, referred to as 5N5.  There are even higher purity levels such as 99.9999%, also referred to as 6N with only 1 ppm total impurities.  The highest purity currently available is 99.99995%, also known as 6N5.  

    This extremely low amount of impurities makes ultra-purity aluminum significant for major power transmission requirements specific to certain high-technology fields. For industries creating semiconductors, electronics, and superconductors, high electrical and thermal conductivity are essential.  However, the cost of producing purer and purer aluminum is quite significant and the cost from one level 5N to 5N5 to 6N.  The cost to go from 6N to 6N5 is extremely costly and time-consuming so the magnitude of price difference for 6N5 would require only the most specialized applications, such as Molecular-beam epitaxy (MBE) applications.


    Production Methods of Ultra-Purity Aluminum

    Several technologies make it possible to achieve ultra-purity levels of aluminum. Of these techniques, three-layer electrolysis and fractional crystallization processes have become the dominating methods in high-volume industrial production.

    The three-layer electrolysis process uses aluminum obtained from the Hall–Héroult process with a purity range of 99.7% to 99.9%. Iron (Fe), silicon (Si), zinc (Zn), and gallium (Ga) impurities are replenished with higher purity levels, surpassing those from classical aluminum production processes. This method makes it possible to gain a purity level of between 99.998% (4N8) to 99.999% (5N) using an Al–Cu master alloy as an anode at the bottom of the cell, an electrolyte in the middle layer, and aluminum on the top layer. The entire process is governed by the electrode potential differences of the metal ions in the electrolyte.

    Segregation processes, in contrast, use the principle of difference between the solubility of impurities in liquid and solid phases of a base metal. This includes different methods, such as suspension-based Alcoa Process that yields 5N5 and layer-based zone refining that achieves aluminum up to 99.99995% (6N5) purity.

    Vacuum distillation and organic electrolysis techniques have also been reported to achieve higher purification levels, especially for specialized low-volume applications

    The table below summarizes the various methods along with their achieved end-purity and the technique used:





    Three-layer elec.

    Molten salt elec.



    Vacuum dist.

    Selectively volatilize


    5N *

    Organic elec.





    Suspension based

    Alcoa Process



    Zone melting



    Properties of Ultra-Purity Aluminum

    Ultra-purity aluminum has a range of notable properties. This makes the material valuable in multiple fields and applications, particularly within high-technology industries.

    1. High Electrical Conductivity: The ultra-high purity level gives the aluminum excellent electrical conductivity. Its conductive capabilities are crucial for integrated circuits, where the metal replaces copper and gold as bonding wires for transistors and interconnecting lines in very large-scale integrated (VLSI) circuits.
    2. Thermal Conductivity: Ultra-purity aluminum boasts superior thermal conductivity, which makes it an ideal material for various thermal components.
    3. Absence of Low-Temperature Brittleness: High- to ultra-high purity aluminum does not become brittle at low temperatures. This makes it suitable for superconductors running under extreme cold conditions.
    4. High Corrosion Resistance: When an oxide layer forms over the surface of high-purity aluminum, it achieves impressive corrosion resistance and electrical insulation. This guarantees the longevity of the industrial units made from such aluminum.
    5. High Strength and Plasticity at Low Temperatures: This property solves the problem of a lack of elastic conditions in cold conditions, making the material suitable for flexibility-centered tasks at critically-low temperatures.


    Applications of Ultra-Purity Aluminum

    Ultra-purity aluminum is useful in a broad spectrum of applications.

    • High-Tech Applications: High-purity aluminum is a vital element for high-tech applications, such as integrated circuits or semiconductors. In the future, it may further enhance power efficiency and offer zero-defect tolerances.
    • Use in Superconductors: High- to ultra-high-purity aluminum is used for the stabilization of superconductors operational at extreme cold temperatures to as low as -269 degrees Celsius.
    • Optoelectronic Storage Media Manufacturing: The material is a requisite for manufacturing optoelectronic storage media, such as CDs and DVDs. It is possible to process it into electrical conductors of computer storage hard disks via the cathode-sputtering process.
    • Mirroring and Reflectors: Ultra-purity aluminum is often rolled with a mirror-like surface. This gives it a high reflective index, making the metal suitable for use in reflectors and mirrors, particularly in high-tech devices and products.
    • Molecular Beam Epitaxy (MBE) – this is method for thin-film deposition of single crystals, which is required for semiconductor devices, including transistors, especially in nano-technology applications.  


    Environmental Considerations of Using Ultra-Purity Aluminum

    From an environmental point of view, ultra-purity aluminum is a winner. Aluminum is abundant: it constitutes approximately 8% of the Earth's crust. Its recyclability adds to its environmentally-friendly nature, as it is possible to repeatedly reuse aluminum without the metal losing its properties. This reduces the need for further extraction of the material and minimizes the impact on the environment.

    Moreover, aluminum's unique corrosion-resistant property makes it a highly-durable material. This means products made from high-purity aluminum have extended life cycles, lead to less wastage and, consequently, a lower environmental impact.

    However, it is important to mention that the processes deployed to achieve ultra-purity levels often involve high energy consumption. Therefore, it is important to continuously strive to develop more energy-efficient and sustainable methods of producing the material to offset any environmental impacts.


    Frequently-Asked Questions

    What are the main difference between high-purity aluminum and ultra-purity aluminum?

    High-purity aluminum typically refers to aluminum with a purity level exceeding 99.99%, whereas ultra-purity aluminum has a substantially higher level of purity of above 99.999%, meaning it has impurities of less than 10 ppm.

    How do production methods affect the properties of ultra-purity aluminum?

    Production methods play a crucial role in determining the purity level of aluminum. Advanced processes (such as three-layer electrolysis and segregation) can achieve ultra-high purity levels. Purity levels influence the key properties of the aluminum, such as electrical conductivity, corrosion resistance, and thermal conductivity.



    Ultra-purity aluminum has become an indispensable material in various industries, specifically in those that require high-tech applications. Its excellent electrical and thermal conductivity, impressive corrosion resistance, and absence of brittleness at extreme cold temperatures mean it is the material of choice for many critical tasks. The innovation of various production methods that yield high levels of purity are further accelerating the demand for this kind of aluminum. As the demands of high-tech industries evolve and environmental matters gain more attention, more energy-efficient and planet-friendly ways of producing ultra-purity aluminum are likely to be the main focus of the future.