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What is Alumina PCB ?


Alumina PCBs are a type of ceramic printed circuit board made using aluminum oxide (Al2O3) ceramic as the substrate material instead of the more common FR-4 laminates. Alumina, also referred to as aluminum oxide, provides high thermal conductivity, electrical insulation, and excellent mechanical strength at elevated temperatures.

These properties make alumina PCBs ideal for applications requiring high power density electronics, thermal management, and survivability in harsh environments. The key benefits and applications of alumina PCBs are explored along with manufacturing processes and design considerations unique to alumina boards.

Benefits of Alumina PCBs

Some of the major advantages offered by alumina PCBs include:

  • High thermal conductivity (~30 W/mK) for excellent heat dissipation
  • Low thermal expansion provides reliable connections under thermal cycling
  • High strength and hardness resists fracturing and abrasion damage
  • Electrically insulating with high dielectric strength (>100V/mil)
  • Withstands very high temperatures (>1000°C)
  • Inert material resists corrosion, radiation, and harsh chemicals
  • Supports layered circuitry and high component density
  • Customizable to achieve high precision geometries
  • Electrically isolates multiple circuits on a single board
  • Compatible with thick-film and thin-film metallization
  • Hermetic sealing possible for packages and housings

The combination of electrical, thermal, and mechanical properties make alumina substrates a top choice for specialized and high reliability PCBs.

Applications of Alumina PCBs

Some of the common application areas for alumina PCBs include:

  • High power electronics
  • Automotive electronics
  • Aerospace and avionics
  • Medical instruments
  • Industrial instrumentation
  • Oil and gas downhole tools
  • Military and defense electronics
  • High temperature electronics
  • High voltage isolation boards
  • LED light engines
  • Power supply baseplates
  • High frequency RF circuits
  • Hybrid microcircuits
  • Multi-Chip Power Modules

Alumina boards can operate reliably in situations where conventional FR-4 based boards would fail due to thermal stresses or environmental conditions. The dielectric and thermal properties of alumina ceramic make it an excellent engineered substrate for specialized electronics.

Construction of Alumina PCBs

Alumina PCBs are fabricated by attaching metallized conductive patterns to a sintered and polished alumina ceramic baseplate. Here are some of the key fabrication steps:

Alumina Substrate Manufacturing

  • Raw alumina powder is molded and compressed into the required board dimensions
  • Binders are added to provide mechanical stability for handling
  • Firing at 1500-1600°C sinters the pressed alumina into a monolithic structure
  • Cooling after sintering must be carefully controlled to prevent cracking
  • Final board is precision ground and lapped to achieve desired thickness and surface roughness


  • Thick-film pastes containing metals like tungsten or molybdenum are screen printed onto the alumina and then fired at high temperature to form circuit traces
  • Thin-film metallization like sputtered titanium/copper can also create circuits patterns
  • Plating may be done to allow wire bonding or protect metals from oxidation

Multilayer Boards

  • Multiple double sided alumina boards can be laminated into a monolithic stack to build multilayer boards
  • Holes are laser drilled and then filled with conductive pastes to form vias between layers
  • Layer alignment maintained using guide pins and image recognition

Housing Integration

  • Alumina substrates allow direct integration into hermetic housings like ceramic DIP or LCC packages
  • Sealing done using brazing, epoxy adhesives, glass seals etc.

The excellent dimensional control and smoothness of the alumina ceramic baseplates results in high fidelity circuit patterns and reliable multilayer buildup.

Design Rules for Alumina PCBs

Alumina PCBs have tighter design constraints compared to conventional FR-4 boards:

  • Minimum trace/space is 5-10 mils versus 4-8 mils for FR-4
  • Maximum trace current is 15-25 A/mm of conductor width
  • Careful thermal matching with solders and metals required to avoid delamination
  • Via diameters start at 10 mils versus 6-8 mils for FR-4 boards
  • Component leads require sufficient compliancy to compensate for lower board flexure
  • Hermetic seals may limit component height restrictions
  • Components optimized for high temperature operation required
  • Thermal expansion mismatches between board, conductors, and components must be modeled
  • High frequency performance enhanced by design techniques like ground planes

While enabling improved reliability and environmental resilience, alumina PCBs require design adjustments from conventional board layouts to account for material behaviors and process differences.


  • Alumina PCBs utilize aluminum oxide ceramic substrates instead of the usual FR-4 laminates.
  • Alumina provides excellent thermal conductivity, temperature resistance, strength, and electrical insulation.
  • Key applications include high power, automotive, aerospace, oil drilling, military, and high temperature electronics.
  • Boards are fabricated by applying metallized circuits onto a sintered alumina baseplate. Multilayer builds also done.
  • Design rules accommodate lower flexure, higher processing temperatures, and material thermal expansion.
  • With proper design consideration for the material properties, alumina PCBs deliver superior performance and reliability in demanding applications.


How does alumina PCB thermal conductivity compare to FR-4?

Alumina has a thermal conductivity around 30 W/mK compared to only 0.25 W/mK for standard FR-4 laminates. This provides far superior heat spreading and dissipation.

What are some typical thicknesses for alumina PCB substrates?

Alumina boards can range from around 0.25mm to over 1.5mm thickness. Thinner boards provide better heat transfer while thicker boards offer better strength for large boards.

Are alumina PCBs compatible with standard PCB assembly?

Specialized assembly is required including high temperature solders. Stress-engineered component leads help compensate for board rigidity. PCB coatings are used to prevent oxidation at elevated temperatures.

Does alumina absorb moisture like FR-4?

No, alumina is not susceptible to moisture absorption issues like FR-4 which can lead to outgassing and vapor pressure stresses under heat. Alumina retains its integrity.

Can multiple circuits or layers exist on a single alumina PCB?

Yes, multilayer boards can be fabricated by laminating together double sided boards, integrating passive components, and drilling/plating through hole vias. This allows complex circuitry.




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