Aluminum! You must be familiar with it. And, you might think there is nothing to be curious about Aluminum. But, we have gathered 25 mind-blowing facts about Aluminum for you.
And we will be sharing all of them one by one in this article. So, if you are curious about this one of the most commonly used metals in the world, you can start to read this post.
Here we go, then…
25 Facts About Aluminum
#1 Introduction To Aluminum
Aluminum is one of the chemical elements which is lightweight, soft, malleable, silvery-white in color, and extremely reactive. It has the atomic number 13 and we refer it to by the symbol Al. The melting point of Aluminum is 660.3 degrees Celsius. It is very much possible that you have already used something made of Aluminum in your lifetime.
#2 Discovery of Aluminum
Since the 1700s, various scientists have been suspecting that an unknown metal is available in alum. There have been a lot of attempts by different scientists to produce aluminum at that time.
However, no one could actually discover it. But in 1824, a chemist from Denmark named Hans Christian Oersted extracted a tiny amount of aluminum after some experiments. In 1825, he demonstrated the sample of this new metal.
But in 1827, another chemist from Germany named Friedrich Wöhler tried to produce aluminum from similar experiments. However, he was unsuccessful. Later, in 1845, he produced a tiny amount of aluminum from a similar experiment finally.
Along with that he also described some of the physical properties of this new metal. As a result, Friedrich Wöhler was credited as the discoverer of Aluminum from that time. However, many people also credit Hans Christian Oersted as the discoverer.
#3 The Hall–Héroult & Bayer Process
Even after the discovery of aluminum, we had to wait a long time to see the commercialization of this valuable metal. In 1886, two scientists from French and the USA named Paul Héroult and Charles Martin Hall respectively began to produced aluminum on large-scale.
The process they used to extract aluminum is known as the ‘Hall–Héroult process’. Later, another chemist from Austria named Carl Joseph Bayer used another process of producing aluminum from bauxite in 1889. His process is known as the Bayer process’. All the modern-day production of aluminum is based on both of these processes.
#4 Recycling Aluminum
Aluminum is highly recyclable. Potentially, it can be recycled fully. On top of this, the process of recycling aluminum requires only 5 percent of the energy compared to the process of producing aluminum from ore.
As a result, recycling aluminum has become one of the topmost priorities of the aluminum industry. In theory, about 75 percent of the aluminum ever produced is still in use.
#5 Abundance of Aluminum
When it comes to metals, aluminum is the most abundant metals on Earth. Matter of fact, by a mass about 8 percent of the earth’s crust is made up of aluminum. In terms of the abundance of elements, aluminum is the 3rd most abundant element on our planet. It is available in more than 270 minerals.
#6 Properties of Aluminum
Aluminum is non-magnetic. Yet, it conducts electricity. It is impermeable and odorless. This is a very lightweight metal with a specific weight of about 2.7 g/cm^3. It is one of the best corrosion-resistant metals.
The density of aluminum is about ⅓ compared to steel. Typically, pure aluminum is very soft and lacks strength. It is also ductile and malleable in nature. because of that, aluminum melts at just 660 degrees Celsius. This property of aluminum makes it perfect for casting.
#7 Aluminum in Space Exploration
As we just mentioned that Aluminum has very low density. This property of Aluminum makes it suitable for using it in space exploration. In fact, the first artificial satellite in the world — Sputnik 1 — was made with Aluminum. Since then, scientists have used aluminum in the construction of almost every spacecraft to some extent.
#8 Aluminum Was A Precious Metal Once
Once upon a time, aluminum was a highly precious metal. And, it was known as the ‘Metal of Kings’. In the mid-19th century, it was more valuable than gold. Interestingly, Napoleon III would use utensils and cutlery made of aluminum during his reign.
Due to the metal’s high demand, only the most honored guests would get the honor to use the aluminum utensils. And, the less fortunate ones would have to use plates and cutleries made of gold or silver. Funny, isn’t it?
#9 Aluminum in World’s First Aircraft
You might already know that the ‘Wilbur and Orville Wright’ brothers have designed and invented the first successful airplane in history. It was 17th December 1903 when they successfully flew the world’s first aerial vehicle for about 12 seconds.
And, the engine of that aircraft was made with aluminum. At first, they used a car engine for the airplane. Understandably, it was too heavy for the vehicle. As a result, they designed a new engine using aluminum and was successful in their mission.
#10 Aluminum Foil
There’s no need to introduce aluminum foils to our readers. This useful thing is actually made from an aluminum alloy that contains about 92 to 99 percent of aluminum. These popular foils have hundreds of applications. The popularity of Aluminum foil increased because it is durable, greaseproof, non-toxic, and inexpensive.
It was Robert Victor Neher who invented the process of producing aluminum foil in 1907. The process is known as ‘Continuous Aluminum Rolling’ or ‘Continuous Casting’. In 1910, he opened the world’s first aluminum foil rolling mill in Switzerland.
#11 Usage of Aluminum in Modern Days
After the discovery of Aluminum metal, it has become one of the most prevalent metals in our day to day life. This is truly a multi-functional metal. You can see Aluminum has numerous types of applications in various fields. For instance, we use this metal in the transportation sector.
Aluminum is used to build trucks, aircraft, railway cars, spacecraft’s, marine vessels, and many other types of automobiles. You also know that aluminum is used in the construction and building sectors.
It can be used for manufacturing doors, windows, roofs, etc. When it comes to corrosion resistance and lightness, aluminum is one of the best options as a construction metal.
It is also used in the electricity industry. You will also notice that aluminum is used in making various household items and cooking utensils. Additionally, this metal is also used in making different machinery equipment.
#12 Usage of Aluminum in Ancient Times
In ancient times, alum was used extensively. However, it was not known that we can extract aluminum metal from alum. The famous Greek historian Herodotus written about alum in the 5th century BCE.
And, it was the first written record of alum. It is known that people would use alum for city defense, as a dye fixative, as a tanning agent, and even as a medicine, etc.
#13 Aluminum in Space
In our solar system, aluminum is the 12th most abundant element of them all. And, it is the 3rd most abundant element among the ones that have an odd atomic number. In space, aluminum is created as a byproduct of the fusion of carbon in massive stars. Typically, these stars would turn into ‘Type II Supernovae’ after violent explosions.
In this fusion, 26Mg (an isotope of Magnesium) would be formed. Later, this isotope will become aluminum after capturing free neutrons and protons. Interestingly, all of the aluminum found currently in the solar system is 27Al (an isotope of Aluminum) and the 26Al is extinct as of now.
#14 Economically Viable Source of Aluminum
We have told you that aluminum is one of the most widespread elements. However, not all aluminum minerals are suitable for producing economically viable aluminum. It has been found that the ore ‘Bauxite’ (AlOx (OH) 3–2x) is best for extracting the best quality aluminum.
Due to that, almost all commercially used aluminum metals are being produced from the ore Bauxite for a long time. Bauxite is found in various places of the Earth. Reportedly, the topmost countries that supplied the most bauxite in 2017 were Australia, China, Guinea, etc. respectively.
#15 First Statues Cast Using Aluminum
Nowadays, aluminum is a common component while casting metal structures like statues. However, before 1893 the application of Aluminum in construction sites was very limited. It is stated that the statue of Anteros located in the Piccadilly Circus, London was one of the first statues to be made with aluminum. The statue was built in 1893.
#16 World’s Top Aluminum Producers
The process of extracting aluminum from its ore is highly energy-consuming. That is why all the companies that produce aluminum try to set up their smelters where the electricity cost is low and the supply of electricity is plenty. Because the electric cost is responsible for about 20-40 percent of the total cost of producing aluminum.
According to reports, in 2018, the total primary aluminum production was about 64.3 million metric tons worldwide. And, among them, the largest aluminum producing country was China. Matter of fact, about 40 million metric tons of aluminum produced in 2018 were by China and other Asian companies. And, Russia and Australia are in the 2nd and 3rd place respectively.
#17 Aluminum is (Almost) Always Alloyed
As you know that aluminum is very soft in nature. So to improve its mechanic properties and stretching the metal, aluminum is almost always allowed with other metals/non-metals. Zinc, copper, magnesium, silicon, manganese, etc. are some of the most used allying agents with aluminum. That means, it is not that easy to find 100% pure aluminum in our day to day life.
#18 Aluminum in Packaging and Food Industry
Aluminum is widely used in the food industry. Typically, you will see that this metal is used in various forms from packaging, storing, to framing the food contents.
Some of the common examples of aluminum in the food industry would be aluminum cans, aluminum foils, aluminum pans, aluminum containers, and aluminum trays, etc. Aluminum is popular in the food industry because it is mostly non-toxic, splinter-proof, grease-proof, non-adsorptive, etc.
#19 Aluminum–air Battery
Aluminum–air or ‘Al–air’ batteries are a type of battery that can be used to produce electricity from the reaction between aluminum and the oxygen present in the air. Theoretically, they have one of the highest energy-densities compared to all the other types of batteries.
However, these batteries are primary cells. That means these are non-rechargeable batteries. As a result, these are not widely or Commerical used as of now. Primarily, these types of batteries are used only in military applications.
#20 Aluminum in World War I & II
Aluminum has played a significant role in both World Wars. Matter of fact, it becomes one of the most important and key strategic meals in those times. Primarily, this metal was used to construct ships, aircraft, military mess kits, radar chaffs, etc.
During World War II, the USA has built over 300,000 military planes. And, the majority of these aircraft were made by using Aluminum. In order to achieve this feat, the USA has used over 3 billion or 1.3 billion kg of aluminum.
There are reports that the then leader of the USSR ‘Joseph Stalin’ wrote a letter to the president of the USA ‘Franklin Roosevelt’ in 1941. And, Joseph Stalin stated in the letter that ‘Give me 30 thousand tons of aluminum, and I will win the war’.
#21 Pure Aluminum is Almost Never Found
Another interesting fact about aluminum is that it is highly reactive. As a result, it is almost never found in its purest form in nature. And, it is also very easy to use aluminum to react with most of the nonmetals upon hearting as well.
And under normal condition, even a finer powdered of this metal can react with the oxygen in the air vigorously. Interestingly, as pure Aluminum comes to the contact of air (oxygen), a thin layer of inert oxide i.e. Aluminum Oxide(Al2O3) is formed rapidly on the surface of the metal. This phenomenon makes Aluminum resistant to corrosion and rusting.
#22 Naming of Aluminum
The metal was named after ‘Alum’ (an aluminum-based salt). This salt was used in various forms from ancient times. And, at first, aluminum was extracted from this mineral.
Here, the word ‘Alumina’ came from the word ‘Alum’. And the word ‘Alum’ originated from the Latin word ‘Alumen’. The name ‘Aluminum’ was proposed by an English chemist named Humphry Davy in 1812.
#23 The Aluminum Can
Aluminum cans are very common and popular nowadays. But these were not invented until 1956. Later, in 1958, companies started to use an aluminum can to store drinks and foods.
#24 Aluminum is Extremely Reflective
Another interesting property of aluminum is that it is highly reflective. A fresh metalized film of aluminum can reflect about 92 percent of the visible light and up to 98 percent of the infrared radiation. Due to its highly reflective nature, aluminum is used in manufacturing telescopes.
#25 Aluminum in the USA
Up till now, the USA has imported almost all the bauxite ore from other countries for producing primary aluminum. There are about 13 primary aluminum smelters in the USA. Reportedly, about 5 percent of the total generated electricity in the USA is used to produce aluminum.
This has given rise to a lot of discussion and controversies in recent years. As a result, scientists are looking for an alternative to the current process (Hall–Héroult process) of producing aluminum. The Hall–Héroult process is known for consuming a lot of energy. Unfortunately, we have not found any good alternative process yet.
Summing it Up Cool Facts about Aluminum
The importance of aluminum cannot be described in just a few words. Right now, it has become an essential part of our daily life. In this post, we have described a brief history and a few splendid facts about this metal of utmost importance.
From that, you can see that even though this is a comparatively newly discovered metal, this has become one of the most influential metals of the modern era.
So, have we missed any other interesting facts about Aluminum? If so, make sure you also read our article about facts on climate change.
You can let us know by leaving your comment down below. And, don’t forget to share this post if you have enjoyed it.