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All You Need to Know About Aluminium

Robust, sustainable, and lightweight, aluminium has enormously incredible features that make it ideal for a broad range of applications. From aluminium soft drink cans to the foil we use in kitchens, aluminium is quite commonly used every day. But to what extent do we know about aluminium? There was a time when aluminium was more precious than silver and gold. Today aluminium is among the most extensively used "non-ferrous metal" and the production and application of aluminium outstrips all other metals except for iron and steel.

The Source of Aluminum

Among the metals that are naturally found on earth, aluminium is the most abundant after silicon. In its richest form, aluminium has a shiny exterior and is bright. However, this form of aluminium is extremely rare as it is exceptionally uncommon to find aluminium in a pure state. The minute aluminium gets in contact with the air, it gets oxidized in the form of a thin layer that explains its dull silvery look.

Aluminium is not found in its rich form even in the crust of the earth. Aluminium reacts with other elements quickly because of its elevated chemical reactivity. Hence, in the earth, the main source of aluminium is bauxite ore. Bauxite is formed from the reaction of iron oxide and aluminum oxide. To get the aluminium metal, bauxite has to go through chemical separation through the Bayer Process to create aluminum oxide. It is then processed using the Hall-Heroult process to get aluminium.

Interesting Facts About Aluminium

Here is a list if some of the most interesting trivia about aluminium:

Aluminium can be easily recycled: Few metals can be as easily recycled as aluminium. It needs only 5% of the energy required to create the primary metal to recycle it. Leading firms use recycled aluminium to attain their uncompromising sustainable manufacturing objectives while building artfully designed and lightweight end products that please customers.

Aluminium needs minimal maintenance: Aluminium reacts with the oxygen in the atmosphere to form a defensive layer, making it resistant to corrosion. This means less replacements and maintenance in comparison to metals such as steel or iron. Low maintenance and limited need for alternatives are good news for the overall budget of any project as well as the environment.

Aluminium is a good reflector: Aluminium reflects both light and heat, blocking cold and warmth under its cover, making it ideal for emergency blankets. Additionally, the high energy efficiency in reflectors lowers energy consumption, boosting aluminium’s dominance over other metals.

Aluminium can be easily shaped: Aluminium is malleable and ductile that makes it easy to shape into anything from boat hulls and bicycle frames to kitchen utensils and computer cases. The metal can be easily processed in both hot and cold condition and can be used to make alloys. Aluminium based alloys improve aluminium’s features for certain engineering components and structures where being corrosion resistant and light weight are essential. Some of the commonly used metals to make aluminium alloys are silicon, magnesium, manganese, copper, and zinc. Aluminium provides complete design liberty and is appropriate for wide-ranging applications.

Aluminium keeps food fresh: Aluminium is totally impermeable, which means no aroma, light, or taste gets in or out. This feature makes it perfect for preserving food and it is already extensively used in private households and the food industry alike. Effective food conservation also controls wastage.

Aluminium is lightweight: Aluminium’s low weight makes it easier to manage in a workshop or on a construction site. Aluminium’s low weight also transforms into lower energy consumption during shipping, making aluminium not just a versatile and lightweight material, but also an economically feasible one.

Aluminium is plentiful: Aluminium is among the most abundant element in the earth’s crust, after silicon and oxygen. There is more aluminum than iron in this world, and our reserves will last for several generations with the present consumption of aluminium.

Uses of Aluminium

Aluminium and its alloys are used extensively in the following industries:

Transportation sector: Unadulterated aluminium is extremely soft. To make something more robust but hard-wearing, lightweight, and with the ability to endure the high temperatures in a car or airplane engine, you can mix copper and aluminium.

Food packaging sector: To pack food items, you do not require something with the same potency, but a material that can be easily shaped and sealed. You will obtain those traits by alloying magnesium and aluminium.

Construction sector: Several architects prefer using aluminium as it allows them creative freedom in constructing buildings. Being flexible, aluminium can be easily worked into various designs, making it possible to build structures that would have been difficult to build with wood or steel. In contrast, contractors prefer aluminium in construction because of its thermal efficiency that ensures structures stay warm during the winter season and cool in the summer.

Electrical sector: You could use copper to carry electrical energy from power plants to factories and homes over long distances. However, copper is the best conductor of electricity, but it is expensive and heavy. Aluminium could be another alternative, but it does not conduct electrical energy freely. The problem can be resolved by making power cables from boron alloyed with aluminium, which carries electrical energy as well as copper but is less droopy on hot days and much lighter. Normally, aluminum alloys contain 90%–99% aluminium.

Consumer goods sector: Makers of consumer goods are always working towards upgrading the form, durability, and function of their products. Aluminium is gradually replacing plastic and steel components of consumer durables as it is tougher than plastic but lighter than steel. Aluminium’s thermal efficiency makes it appropriate for electronics to avoid overheating, and its ability to transmit heat makes it ideal for cooking utensils.

The Various Types of Aluminium Alloys

Unadulterated aluminium is not robust enough for industrial use. To resolve this issue, unadulterated aluminium is melted combined with other metals and metalloids such as silicon, iron, copper, zinc, manganese, and magnesium. By alloying with other metals, aluminium's traits such as density, strength, electrical conductivity, corrosion resistance, and workability are improved.

During the process of alloying aluminium, three different varieties of alloys can be created based on their characteristics and what techniques are used to treat them. The three types are heat-treatable, non-heat-treatable, and commercially pure.

Each kind of alloy can then be sub-divided and typified by its principal alloying metal. This is done by designating each kind of alloy a four-digit number to help categorize it, where the first digit classifies a general series or class.

1.Commercially pure: This type of alloy contains aluminium with a purity of 99% or higher.

2.Heat treatable: This type of alloy is reinforced through a process of intense heating and cooling. The alloy is heated to a certain point to distribute evenly the metals within and then it is rapidly cooled to freeze them in place.

3.Non-heat treatable: This type of alloy is reinforced through cold-working process. In this process the metal undergoes rolling and forging that builds up dislocations in the metal's atomic structure to bolster its strength.

No other metal can match aluminum as far as the range of its uses when alloyed with other metals. Additionally, aluminium can be recycled indefinitely and is among the few materials worldwide that pays for the cost of its own assortment. Combining its versatility with its sustainability makes aluminium not only one of the most critical metals globally, but also one of the most used across numerous industries. From the depths of earth’s crust to the bottom of the ocean, aluminium is everywhere and plays a key role in the mankind’s progress as well as the development of our society. 

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