Aluminium, The Many Benefits of the Metallic Element Al
Since its discovery in the 19th Century, aluminium has become one of the most important materials on the planet. It is used in a diverse range of industries, including glass production, electronics, energy, and food packaging. But perhaps most notably, aluminium has allowed mankind to reach for the stars, aluminium is vital to the aviation industry and space exploration.
But just what makes aluminium so remarkable? Why is it used in so many industries for so many different purposes? The answer is simple, aluminium has a rare combination of properties that make it an exceptionally versatile material.
As Strong as Steel, but around 50% the Weight
In comparison to other metals, aluminium is incredibly light, which is why it is vital to the aviation industry, most airplanes and helicopters are made from aluminium. At just 2700 kg/m3 , aluminium has significantly less mass than steel but when made into an alloy, can be just as strong (although its surface is not as hard as steel).
The low weight and high strength of aluminium alloys can also offer financial and environmental benefits. For example, aluminium is being used increasingly in car production, as its low weight means less fuel is needed to make the car accelerate.
Aluminium as an Insulator and Conductor
Many people owe their lives to aluminium's excellent insulation properties, mountain rescue teams use aluminium coated sheets to keep people warm and ward off hypothermia. That's because aluminium is an excellent conductor and insulator of heat, which is why it is also used for making cooking equipment, heating radiators and many different insulation products.Â It is also an effective conductor of electricity, and can be found in most electronic devices.
There's Less Corrosion with Aluminium
As Aluminium is highly resistant to air and moisture, it is used in many civil engineering projects as it allows engineers to create strong, light weight and low maintenance structures. Its resistance to moisture also means it is suited to electronics and perfect for outdoor furniture such as patio tables, chairs and benches.
Aluminium is also non-toxic and virtually tasteless, which, in addition to its corrosion resistance makes it an excellent material for food packaging and cooking equipment. It can form a hygienic barrier that extends the shelf life of food and protects it against contaminants and bacteria.
Is Aluminium the Most Versatile Metal?
Due to its unusual composition, aluminium is extremely malleable and can be used in far more ways than most other metals. It can be forged, cast, made into sheets, rolled into tubes, made into complex and continuous shapes (through aluminium extrusion) and used as a powder. It can even be sprayed onto polymer sheets.
Saving the Planet with Aluminium
There are many environmental benefits to using aluminium, it is completely recyclable, and is available in large quantities (the earth's crust is rich with aluminium). When used to build transport, it also reduces the amount of fuel needed by vehicles, as its low weight means it can be moved with less power.
The aluminium industry is also dedicated to conservation, and most natural forest areas are restored after open mining. In rain forests, a huge 97% of aluminium mining projects have restoration plans in effect.
With all of these benefits, it is easy to see why aluminium is used so heavily in a variety of industries. And we can continue to rely on aluminium in the long term, thanks to recycling and conservation efforts, without damaging the environment.
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