Ultrafine particles (UFPs) of aluminum oxide, formed by arc discharge, were sintered in an ultrahigh vacuum (UHV) furnace system and characterized by high resolution electron microscopy (HREM) under UHV conditions. The UFPs produced range in size from 20 to 50 nm and have highly faceted surfaces. The atomic structure of the UFPs corresponds to the cubic (γ) and orthorhombic (δ) variants of the spinel structure. In UFPs, surface faceting plays a major role in determining the final sintering geometry with sintering occurring predominantly on the closed-packed (111) facets. Surface diffusion is the predominant mechanism for sintering, as evidenced by the fact that many sintered particles have their initial adhesion structure ‘;lockedin’ during sintering with no reorientation occurring. Furthermore, the necks formed during sintering have well-defined, atomically-sharp contact angles suggesting that the neck growth process is controlled by the faceted structures and may be modeled by a mechanism similar to crystal growth due to ledges, grain boundaries, and twins. The driving force for sintering can be considered as a chemical potential difference between facet surfaces and the neck region.