Aluminum is the third most abundant metal in the Earth's crust, and the third most abundant element overall.
No other metal can compare to Aluminum when it comes to its variety of uses. Some uses of aluminum may not be immediately obvious; for example, did you know aluminum is used in the manufacturing of glass?
Aluminum is incredibly popular because it is:
Aluminum is also theoretically 100% recyclable with no loss of its natural properties. It also takes 5% of the energy to recycle scrap aluminum then what is used to produce new aluminum.
The most common uses of aluminum include:
Aluminum really comes into its own when you combine it with other metals to make aluminum alloys (an alloy is a metal mixed together with other elements to make a new material with improved properties-it might be stronger or it might melt at a higher temperature).
A few of the metals commonly used to make aluminum alloys include boron, copper, lithium, magnesium, manganese, silicon, tin, and zinc. You mix aluminum with one or more of these depending on the job you're trying to do.
Aluminum can be combined with other materials in a quite different way in composites (hybrid materials made from two or more materials that retain their separate identity without chemically combining, mixing, or dissolving).
So, for example, aluminum can act as the "background material" (matrix) in what's called a metal matrix composite (MMC), reinforced with particles of silicon carbide, to make a strong, stiff, lightweight material suitable for a wide variety of aerospace, electronic, and automobile uses—and (crucially) better than aluminum alone.
Aluminum is used in transportation because of its unbeatable strength to weight ratio. Its lighter weight means that less force is required to move the vehicle, leading to greater fuel efficiency. Although aluminum is not the strongest metal, alloying it with other metals helps to increase its strength. Its corrosion resistance is an added bonus, eliminating the need for heavy and expensive anti-corrosion coatings.
While the auto industry still relies heavily on steel, the drive to increase fuel efficiency and reduce CO2 emissions has led to a much wider use of aluminum. Experts predict that the average aluminum content in a car will increase by 60% by 2025.
High-speed rail systems like the Shinkansen in Japan and the Maglev in Shanghai also use aluminum.
The metal allows designers to reduce the weight of the trains, cutting down on friction resistance.
Aluminum is also known as the ‘winged metal' because it is ideal for aircraft; again, due to being light, strong and flexible. In fact, aluminum was used in the frames of Zeppelin airships before airplanes had even been invented. Today, modern aircraft use aluminum alloys throughout, from the fuselage to the cockpit instruments. Even spacecraft, such as space shuttles, contain 50% to 90% of aluminum alloys in their parts.
Buildings made with aluminum are virtually maintenance free due to aluminum's resistance to corrosion. Aluminum is also thermally efficient, which keeps homes warm in winter and cool in summer. Add the fact that aluminum has a pleasing finish and can be curved, cut and welded to any desired shape, it allows modern architects unlimited freedom to create buildings that would be impossible to make from wood, plastic, or steel.
The first building in which aluminum was widely used was the Empire State Building in New York, built in 1931. Today, aluminum is regularly used in the construction of high-rise buildings and bridges. The lighter weight of aluminum makes it easier, faster and more convenient to work with. It also helps reduce other costs. A building constructed of steel would require much deeper foundations due to the added weight, which would drive up construction costs.
Notable modern buildings made from aluminum include the Bank of China headquarters in Hong Kong and Zaha Hadid's London Aquatics Centre in London.
Existing copper conductors are being replaced around the world, with companies tending to use aluminium wires when new power lines are constructed, especially in the low-voltage lines sector. For example, the National Electric Code (USA) stipulates using aluminium wiring in the construction of new buildings. New standards for using low-voltage aluminium conductors come into force in China on September 1, 2015. This will inevitably lead to increased consumption of aluminium in that country.
Using aluminium cables also has a significant economic effect. First, aluminium is much cheaper than copper, second, a higher conductance of aluminium allows transmitting more electricity using the same infrastructure. As global power consumption continues to grow, grids cannot handle the existing load, the number of overloads and faults increases, and construction of new power lines is much more expensive than cable replacement.
Aluminum's appearance is the reason it is used frequently in consumer goods.
Smartphones, tablets, laptops, and flat screen TVs are being made with an increasing amount of aluminum. Its appearance makes modern tech gadgets look sleek and sophisticated while being light and durable. It is the perfect combination of form and function which is critical for consumer products. More and more, aluminum is replacing plastic and steel components, as it is stronger and tougher than plastic and lighter than steel. It also allows heat to dissipate quickly, keeping electronic devices from overheating.
We often choose the best raw materials by collecting it domestically or by importing from various countries
The process of recycling aluminum is tremendously efficient. Only five percent of the energy invested in creating fresh supplies of aluminum is required to recycle the same amount, and because aluminum is infinitely reusable there is no loss of quality once the recycling process is finished.
Briefly, here's how the aluminum recycling process works:
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