Aluminium compounds form eight per cent of the earth's crust and aluminium is the third most common crustal metal on earth. Pure aluminium is a soft lightweight metal. Mixed with small, often minute, quantities of other materials – iron, silicon, zinc, copper, magnesium, tin, titanium, lithium, chromium, tungsten, manganese, nickel, zirconium and boron - it is possible to produce an array of alloys with specific properties for very different purposes. The discovery, successful extraction and the first commercial applications of aluminium all took place in the 19th Century. The enthusiasm for new materials and their possible uses was immense.

Properties : Aluminium can be very strong, light (less than one third the specific weight of steel, copper or brass), ductile, and malleable. It is an excellent conductor of heat and electricity. Polished aluminium has the highest reflectivity of any material - even mirror glass. It can be cast, rolled or extruded into an infinite variety of shapes. It has unique barrier properties as a packaging material, it resists corrosion and it can be recycled – again and again and again, with no loss of quality or properties.

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      Aluminium ore, most commonly bauxite, is plentiful and occurs mainly in tropical and sub-tropical areas: Africa, West Indies, South America and Australia. There are also some deposits in Europe. Bauxite is refined into aluminium oxide trihydrate (alumina) and then electrolytically reduced into metallic aluminium. Primary aluminium production facilities are located all over the world, often in areas where there are abundant supplies of inexpensive energy, such as hydro-electric power.

     Recovery : Two to three tonnes of bauxite are required to produce one tonne of alumina and two tonnes of alumina are required to produce one tonne of aluminium metal.

Different forms of Aluminium

Alloys : Aluminium can be rolled into plate, sheets, or wafer thin foils the thickness of a human hair. The rolling process changes the characteristics of the metal, making it less brittle and more ductile.


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