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Aluminium

Overview

Aluminium (Al) is a soft silver metal with the atomic number 13. Although the raw material needs to be processed to produce pure aluminium , it is the third most common element on the planet.. This availability, along with the fact that it is extremely light, means it is used extensively across many practical applications.

Properties

Aluminium’s light weight is one of its greatest advantages. However, there are other properties that are useful in many industrial applications. It is non-toxic, non-sparking and non-magnetic. In addition, during the manufacturing process, it is easily formed, machined and cast. While pure aluminium is soft, when made into an alloy by the addition of other elements, such as magnesium, copper or silicon, it becomes much more durable and robust.

Production

Although aluminium is found combined with many other elements, the main ore used for its production is Bauxite. The impurities are removed from the ore by the Bayer Process, involving treatment with sodium hydroxide (NaOH). Carbon dioxide is then blown through the resulting solution and the aluminium precipitated out as aluminium hydroxide. This is heated to form alumina with pure aluminium then obtained by electrolysis.

Applications

Aluminium is one of the most common manufacturing metals used today and is used for:

  • Packaging, particularly tins and cans for food and drink
  • Construction materials, such as window frames
  • Transportation – car bodies, aeroplanes and shipping
  • Household utensils
  • Consumer electronics

Interesting Fact

Because aluminium is 100% recyclable without any loss of quality, it’s thought that one day we will be able to rely solely on recycled aluminium for all our needs.

Chemical Data
CAS number 7440-32-6
Thermal neutron cross section 5.6 barns/atom
Electrode potential 0.20 V
Ionic radius 0.680 A
Electro negativity 1.54
X-ray absorption edge 2.497 A
Electrochemical equivalent 0.4468 g/A/h

 Physical Properties

Properties Metric Imperial
Density 4.50 g/cm3 0.163 lb/in3
Melting point 933.47 °C 3000-3040 °F
Boiling point 3287 °C 5949 °F

Thermal Properties

Properties Metric Metric
Thermal expansion co-efficient (@20-100°C/68-212°F) 8.90 µm/m°C 4.94 µin/in°F
Thermal conductivity 17 W/mK 118 BTU in/hr.ft².°F

 

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