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Alloy Aluminum the material of choice

Aluminum is relatively soft and lightweight metal with a dull silver-gray appearance.  Aluminum is about one-third as dense as steel or copper is malleable ductile, and easily machined and cast; and has excellent corrosion resistance and durability due to the protective oxide layer. It is also nonmagnetic and none sparking and is the second most malleable metal (most being gold) and the sixth most ductile. Whether measured in terms of quantity or value, the use of aluminum exceeds that of any other metal except iron and it is important in virtually all segments of the world economy. Aluminum alloys form vital components of aircrafts and rockets as a result of their high strength to weight ratio. Aluminum was selected as the material to be used for the apex of the Washington Monument, at a time when one ounce cost twice the daily wages of a laborer.

Alloy Aluminum Alloy Aluminum

Aluminum was, when it was first discovered, extremely difficult to separate from the rocks it was part of. Since the whole of Earth's aluminum was bound up in the form of compounds, it was the most difficult metal on earth to get, despite the fact that it is one of planets most common. The reason is that aluminum is oxidized very rapidly and that its oxide is an extremely stable compound that, unlike rust on steel, does not flake off. The very reason for which aluminum is used in many applications is why it is so hard to produce.

Recovery of this metal from scrap (via recycling) has become an important component of the aluminum industry. Recycling involves simply melting the metal, which is far less expensive than creating it from ore. Refining aluminum requires enormous amounts of electricity; recycling it requires only 5% of the energy to produce it. A common practice since the early 1900's, aluminum recycling is not new. It was, however, a low-profile activity until the late 1960's when the exploding popularity of aluminum beverage can finally placed recycling into the public consciousness.

Electric power represents about 20 to 40% of the cost of producing aluminum, depending on the location of the aluminum smelter. Smelters tend to be located where electric power is plentiful and inexpensive, China is currently (2004) the top world producer of aluminum.

Aluminum Properties

Aluminium or aluminum, is a silvery white and ductile member of the boron group of chemical elements. It has the symbol Al; its atomic number is 13. It is not soluble in water under normal circumstances. Aluminium is the most abundant metal in the Earth's crust, and the third most abundant element therein, after oxygen and silicon. It makes up about 8% by weight of the Earth’s solid surface. Aluminium is too reactive chemically to occur in nature as the free metal. Instead, it is found combined in over 270 different minerals.  The chief source of aluminium is bauxite ore.

Aluminium is remarkable for its ability to resist corrosion (due to the phenomenon of passivation) and its low density. Structural components made from aluminium and its alloys are vital to the aerospace industry and very important in other areas of transportation and building. Its reactive nature makes it useful as a catalyst or additive in chemical mixtures, including being used in ammonium nitrate explosives to enhance blast power.