Since the 1800s, aluminum products have been abundant in everyday life, and therefore are critical for the viability of our industrial, manufacturing, and construction businesses. There are many interesting facts about aluminum surrounding its origins, history, chemical composition, and various applications.
Did you know that aluminum was once considered to be more precious than gold or silver? During the revolutionary wars era, Napoleon used to serve his most respected guests on aluminum plates, while guests of lower standing used gold or silver plates. Contrary to the broader interpretation of aluminum being considered a harmless product that gives form to structures and other appliances and tools, originally, aluminum was discovered as a chemical, which is, in fact, dangerous if left free in nature. As a highly reactive element of the periodic table, aluminum can bind with oxygen and thus can cause difficulty in breathing. That’s why it cannot be found in its pure form in the earth’s atmosphere. The current status of aluminum makes it completely safe for humans since it is sometimes used as a medication to treat stomach acidity or kidney failure.
As a ubiquitous metal, aluminum accounts for roughly $71 billion of the US’s Gross Domestic Product. Its popularity in daily life can be attributed to its resistance to corrosion and rusting because it does not contain steel or iron. However, when it interacts with oxygen, there is a possibility for corrosion and most welding professionals deploy aluminum oxide on the outer part of the aluminum product to prevent friction of any kind.
But apart from the typical aluminum foil kept in your kitchen cabinet to protect food from bacteria and moisture, how aware are you of other aluminum applications around you? You probably already know that aluminum has great recycling benefits as a packaging component, and that’s why 73% of aluminum cans are recycled.
Aluminum is also ductile and lightweight. With basic tools and minor pressure, manufacturers can easily shape aluminum into desired industry needs. Let’s look into the most common and some of the less known applications of aluminum:
Aluminum can be used in food preparation or for manufacturing kitchen appliances. In food packaging, aluminum preserves food quality and prevents microorganisms from penetrating and infecting it. You also should not worry about aluminum getting into your food. Several studies have shown that even if a minimal amount gets on your food, our body mechanisms act as a defense to eliminate it, and it is not absorbed.
Aluminum is one of the best metals for cookware due to its long-term durability. It is applied on refrigerators, kettles, saucepans, toasters, and other commonly used objects and electronic appliances. This preference results from aluminum’s lightweight composition and conductivity, allowing appliances to heat well and helping with energy efficiency.
A valid reason why aluminum is used in construction and design is the formability factor. Aluminum suppliers know the answer to this question better than anyone else since they can compare aluminum’s malleability to other metals that require more elaborate processing techniques. It’s also important to note that aluminum is highly energy-efficient and low-maintenance, leading to more environmentally conscious infrastructure decisions. Skyscrapers are also constructed more frequently with aluminum because it weights 65% less than steel!
Agricultural tractors are envisioned as lighter in the future, and that’s where aluminum’s lightweight nature comes into play. With lighter weight, the agriculture industry can achieve low fuel consumption, low or no emissions, reduced risk of human injury and soil compaction, and lower operating costs. Aluminum can be applied to tractor frames, rollover protection systems, exterior, and interior parts.
Aluminum is used in transportation due to its great strength to weight ratio. Moreover, it is corrosion-resistant, which eliminates the need for expensive coatings. The ambitious drive to decrease CO2 emissions has led to even broader use of aluminum and it is predicted that the investment in aluminum products in various automotive parts will increase by 60% in 2025.
The first car made with aluminum was a Ford, and it was a breakthrough for transportation because it was shock-resistant. Car manufacturers started making cars lighter to reduce the amount of fuel used. The Wright brothers also used aluminum to design their biplane’s engine because it was lightweight, a pioneering idea at the time. Today, aluminum is the main component in fuselage and cockpit instruments. Space shuttles also contain up to 90% aluminum alloys.
Most astronomical telescope mirrors use aluminum due to reflectivity. Other objects that improve the quality of life and contain aluminum are bike frames, ladders, mailboxes, computer parts, pots, and pans.
Known as the “miracle metal” due to its extensive list of inherent properties, aluminum will continue to be valuable for manufacturers and designers. It provides a wide range of options for product development and guarantees flexibility, durability, and high reflectivity.