Five Things You May Not Know About Aluminum
When most people think of aluminum, it’s in reference to a soda can or long strips of foil used in the kitchen. An interesting thing about aluminum is that it’s actually found in many places, such as doorknobs, kitchen utensils and even glass production. And it continues to gain traction in many industries.
According to the Aluminum Association, it has been produced in commercial quantities for just over 100 years, which makes it a comparatively new industrial metal.
What makes aluminum so popular?
In addition to being the second most abundant metallic element in the Earth’s crust next to silicon, it’s easy to mold, fold and recycle. This creates a long list of benefits for things like packaging, transportation and construction.
With Pace being an aluminum die casting company, you can imagine our appreciation of this prevalent element. We believe the more that’s understood about the benefits and uses of aluminum the more we can innovate and advance technologies around this plentiful resource.
With that in mind, we’d like to share a few interesting facts.
- Aluminum is green. There are two types of aluminum: primary and secondary. Primary production is the process by which new aluminum is made. Secondary production is where existing aluminum is recycled into another usable form. This secondary process is extremely environmentally friendly. In fact, it’s 92 percent more energy efficient than primary production.With the ability to recycle aluminum so easily, there isn’t a high demand for mining new resources. The Aluminum Association reports that 75 percent of aluminum ever made is still in use. In our own operations, Pace uses only recycled aluminum. It’s more cost effective and also a responsible way to operate.
- Aluminum is extremely lightweight. According to the S. Geological Survey, it’s a third of the weight of steel or copper. What this means for Pace is that it allows us to have greater design capabilities. We can develop products that allow for lightweighting, which is critical for many of our customers – especially those in the aircraft, boating and automobile industries. Lighter machines translate to less energy required to operate.
- Aluminum plays well with others. The unique properties of aluminum alloy allow the metal to work well with a steel die, which is what Pace uses. The process moves quickly with aluminum, and we’re able to get fine details on a part. This can eliminate secondary operations and allow us to combine parts. That means less assembly for castings that are lower cost and with a finer detail.
- Aluminum was born out of science. Aluminum isn’t naturally found in the Earth’s crust. It comes from bauxite, which has to be processed to get aluminum. What this means is that it required the efforts of chemists and engineers to bring it to life. Essentially, innovation made this metal possible.As an interesting fact, Danish chemist Hans Christian Oersted first extracted aluminum from alum in 1825. It remained a novelty and too expensive to mass-produce until 1886 when American chemist Charles Martin Hall and French chemist Paul Héroult independently invented the Hall-Héroult process, which is still used today.
- Aluminum is getting stronger. Scientists continue to search for ways to improve aluminum, and there are currently hundreds of mixes on the market. One of the most recent breakthroughs was in 2010. Yuntian Zhu, a professor at North Carolina State University, and his colleagues subjected aluminum with magnesium and zinc to extreme pressure. The result was an aluminum that’s as strong as steel.The next phase of development is to produce this in large enough volumes for commercial applications, which will be a game changer for many industries.
With so many applications and unique benefits, it’s easy to classify aluminum as the metal of modern life. We’re excited to continue innovating with this resource and watch how it will transform the world around us in years to come.
For a complete history of aluminum, check out this article by the Aluminum Association.