The Many Uses and Story of Aluminum
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The Many Uses and Story of Aluminum

Aluminum is the wonder metal of this era. You see and use it every day - in the wrappers of your candy bars, in the bridges you cross, in containers for your toothpaste, in jet-propelled aircraft. Aluminum is the most plentiful of all metals, since bauxite ore, from which it is made, is found in almost every country in great abundance.
                        aluminum macbook body

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Aluminum is the wonder metal of this era. You see and use it every day - in the wrappers of your candy bars, in the bridges you cross, in containers for your toothpaste, in jet-propelled aircraft. All of us take the metal for granted; yet more than 100 years ago aluminum cost over 500 dollars a pound and was considered most precious than gold. When Napoleon III dined, he used an aluminum fork while his guests had to be content with gold silverware.

Aluminum is the most plentiful of all metals, since bauxite ore, from which it is made, is found in almost every country in great abundance. The problem, however, has always been to refine the metal from the ore. Unlike most other metals, which can be refined directly, aluminum can be obtained only after a long, complicated process of purification and refinement. In 1885, Charles Hall discovered an inexpensive process of taking aluminum from the ore by electricity.

Bauxite ore is mined by either the open-pit or underground method. The first step is to produce alumina, or aluminum oxide, a white powdery substance. This is done by a chemical and physical process of refinement that removes most of the impurities. Then the second important step, and the most difficult, is to remove the oxygen to obtain the metal itself. This is done in a furnace by a procedure somewhat like charging a storage battery. This process removes the oxygen, leaving the pure metal, which can be drained off. It takes 4 to 6 pounds of bauxite ore, 10 to 12 kilowatt hours of electrical energy, and 3/4 pound of carbon to produce one pound of aluminum that sells for a small fraction of a dollar.

              aluminum in cans

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This wonder metal has many good characteristics. It is light, only about a third as heavy as iron or steel. It conducts heat readily and quickly, making it very useful in electrical work and for cooking utensils. It also resists corrosion. The cap place on the Washington Monument in 1884 is made of aluminum. This metal also reflects heat and light and is therefore a good insulating material. It is non-magnetic and can be worked easily.

Aluminum is not strong enough in its natural state for some uses. Other metals such as copper, silicon, manganese, magnesium, and chromium are added to produce more than 30 different aluminum alloys. Aluminum has thousands of uses in industrial life. A few examples are aircraft, automobiles, railway cars, buildings, cans, bridges, and thousands of other metal products.

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Comments (4)

Here's to amazing aluminum.

good article

Well done Levy.

That surely added more to my knowledge of aluminum.

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