A method has been developed to produce thick (> 400 mu m) AlN surface layers oil aluminium plates at 540 degrees C, under nitrogen at atmospheric pressure. A critical element of the process is the use of Mg powder placed in close proximity to the Al plate surface. The Mg reduces/disrupts the natural, protective oxide film on the Al surface. The nitride layers form through two distinct modes, one growing outward from the Al plate surface and the other growing into the Al. (c) 2006 Acta Materialia Inc. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.