Aluminium is the most popular metal in the world. It is also the third most common mineral, making up 8 percent of the total content of crust. Its versatility makes the most utilized mineral just after steel. Despite the fact that the compounds of aluminium alloys have been used for centuries, the aluminium metal was initially manufactured about 170 years ago. Since it was first built, the demand for aluminium alloy has drastically increased to about 29 million tons in a year. Around 22 million tons is from new aluminium metal while 7 million tons are from recycled scrap metal.
The use of recycled aluminium is becoming popular since it is economical and also environmental friendly. It takes approximately 14000 kilowatts to produce a single ton of the new aluminium alloy. Nevertheless, the quality of recycled and virgin aluminium is still the same.
Pure aluminium metal is ductile, resistant from corrosion and soft. It also has high electrical conductivity. Aluminium is broadly used to make conductor cables and to make foil. Manufacturers alloy aluminium with other metals so as to increase its strength to cater for other applications. Additionally, it is one of the slightest metals.
Aluminium has remarkable properties, and this is a major advantage over other metals: some characteristics of aluminium include:
- Strength to weight ratio. The density of aluminium is approximately 1/3 that of steel. This is the reason it is widely used in applications requiring low weight and high strength, such as in the manufacturing of vehicles with a small mass and greater load capacity. This factor also reduces fuel consumption.
- Corrosion resistance. A protective oxide coating usually forms as soon as an aluminium metal is exposed to the air. This metal oxide layer is resistant to corrosion. Surface treatments like for example anodizing can enhance the metal.
- Electrical conductivity and thermal conductivity. Aluminium is an efficient conductor of both electricity and heat. Its conductivity is twice to that of copper; this is because of its ideal weight. Thus the reason it is the most used metal material in power transmission lines. An aluminium alloy in the 1000 and 6000 series is the best alternative to copper. It is because it can be utilized in any electrical conduction applications such as wiring at homes. However, aluminium has a little strength and, therefore, needs to be galvanized.
- Heat and light reflectivity. Aluminium is an excellent reflector of heat and visible light, hence making it a good material for thermal rescue blankets, light fittings, and architectural insulation.
- Toxicity. Aluminium is a safe metal and does not produce any foul smell. Thus, it is ideal for packaging sensitive products such as pharmaceuticals and food.
- Recycling. The best thing about aluminium is that it does not degrade in quality and properties when recycled. It is recycling needs about 5 percent of input energy needed to manufacturer virgin aluminium metal.
Aluminium is extracted from bauxite and principle ore. Bauxite is found in Africa, China, Caribbean, and Australia. The method that is used to mine bauxite is known as open cut techniques. Two tons of bauxite produces one ton of alumina.
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