What is Aluminum? Uses, Properties of Aluminum

What is Aluminum? Uses, Properties of Aluminum

Structural application of aluminum-based materials(Image Source: PIXNIO).

Metals are a very important part of human civilization. There are lots of kinds of metals in the periodic table and they are generally used in different kinds of applications to make modern human life easier. Each type of metal has different and distinct characteristics to pave the way to use them in different kinds of professional and daily applications. 

If you look around yourself, you can easily see the general use areas of metals. One of these metals is aluminum. Lots of kinds of applications and systems depend on aluminum. In lots of kinds of fields, people need aluminum for different purposes. 

We would like to elaborate on the aluminum element and place the aluminum around other metal groups. You can find detailed information about aluminum in this article. 

What is Aluminum?

It is a very open-ended question. This question can be answered according to different working fields and viewpoints. But if we take up this question in terms of the chemistry the answer can be like this; 

Aluminum is a natural element that has an atomic number of 13. Pure aluminum has silver-like metallic color. 

Thermal Properties of Aluminum Element

Like the other metals, aluminum has very good thermal characteristics to use in thermal and heating applications. Take a look at the thermal characteristics of aluminum; 

  • The melting point of aluminum is 933.47 K ​(660.32 °C, ​1220.58 °F) in different temperature ranges. 
  • The boiling temperature of the aluminum element is 2743 K ​(2470 °C, ​4478 °F). We do not think you will boil a pot of aluminum but it will be precious to know this information… 
  • The molar heat capacity of the pure aluminum element is 24.20 J/(mol·K). 
  • The thermal expansion value of aluminum at 25 °C is around 23µm/(m⋅K) and the thermal conductivity of the pure aluminum is 237 W/(m⋅K). 

Mechanical and Physical Properties of Aluminum Element

Compared with other metals, aluminum has distinct mechanical properties which makes it a special element for special applications. To give some numerical information about Aluminum’s physical and mechanical properties; 

  • The density of the aluminum element is 2.70 g/cm3 which is very low compared with other metals. Another metal that has a very low density is Magnesium. 
  • Young’s modulus of the aluminum element is 70GPa. 
  • The shear modulus of the aluminum element is around 25GPa. 
  • The poisson ratio of the aluminum element is 0.35. 
  • Brinell hardness of the aluminum element is 160-550MPa. 
  • Vickers hardness value of the aluminum is 160-350MPa. 

These mechanical properties of aluminum are commonly used in the engineering and designing of structural systems. They are very important information for mechanical and mechanical design engineers. 

(Source: Wikimedia)

Some Atomic and Chemical Informations About Aluminum 

In this article we would like to cover all the necessary information about aluminum and all the people can find useful information about aluminum from this article. If we give some numerical information about the aluminum again; 

  • The atomic radius of the aluminum element is 143pm. The covalent bonding radius is 121pm and the Van der Waals bonding radius of aluminum is 184pm. 
  • The place of the aluminum in the periodic table is period 3 and group 13. 
  • The number of electrons in each shell is 2, 8, and 3. 

Important Physical Characteristics of Aluminum

As we stated above, aluminum has very distinct properties compared with other metals. 

One of the most important properties of aluminum is low density. Because of this low density, aluminum is preferred in lightweight applications. Maybe aluminum is not stiff as steel, but it is commonly used in aerospace lightweight applications. Magnesium is also used in structural applications but in general, aluminum is preferred over magnesium because of its very reactive nature of magnesium.

Aluminum can form a protective layer against a corrosive environment when it is oxidized. 

The thermal and electrical characteristics of aluminum are also very important. aluminum is a very good thermal conductor which is used in thermal applications such as boilers and HVAC industries. Aluminum is also heavily used in electrical applications besides copper. But the price of aluminum is very low compared with copper.

Pure aluminum is very soft compared with other metals which have around 10MPa of yield strength. Because of its very high ductility, aluminum is generally alloyed with other elements to obtain much higher yield strength values. This property of aluminum gives it a very high malleability which can be shaped by drawing and extrusion processes.

The discovery of the aluminum element is recent compared with other metals. It is discovered by Hans Christian Ørsted in 1825. But the mass production of aluminum started around the 1880s. 

Depending on the surface roughness, aluminum is a very good reflector of light and because of this property of it, it is used in mirror production. Aluminum can reflect nearly all types of light spectrum including the visible light spectrum. 

How the Aluminum is Produced?

Aluminum ingots(Source: Wikimedia)

Another important piece of information about aluminum is, that it is one of the most abundant elements in Earth’s crust. But because of its very high affinity with oxygen, it can not be found in pure form. Because of it, different kinds of production techniques are used to produce pure aluminum from natural resources. 

  • Bayer Process: Bauxite is the natural form of aluminum salts and the Bayer process is generally used method to eliminate other elements to obtain pure aluminum. 
  • Hall–Héroult process: In this process to produce aluminum, alumina is electrolyzed to obtain pure aluminum at the bottom of the electrolytic containers. 
  • Recycling of Aluminum: Very high amounts of aluminum are used around the world and demand for pure aluminum increases day by day. Producing pure aluminum from scratch is a somewhat expensive and energy-consuming process. But used aluminum is already produced and it can be easily recycled. According to the studies, recycling aluminum required only 5-15% of the production of aluminum from scratch. 

Which Applications that Aluminum and Its Alloys are Used?

Aluminum can.

Because of the various physical, mechanical and chemical properties, aluminum is heavily used in different kinds of applications. 

  • Automotive Industry: Because of its lightweight, low price, and capability of easy production and alloying, aluminum-based materials are commonly used in structural and external parts of automotive products such as cars, trucks, etc. 
  • Construction:  When aluminum is alloyed with the right materials, it can be used in structural applications because of its corrosion resistance. Window frames, door frames, sliding elements, roofings, etc. are the main structural and constructional applications of aluminum. 
  • Packaging Industry: Because of its low chemical affinities and low toxicities, aluminum is heavily used in the packaging industry such as soda cans, foils, etc. 
  • Appearance in Household Items: Aluminum has a very good appearance characteristic and because of it, it is commonly used in household items. 
  • Electrics and Electronics: Because of its low price and very good electrical conductivity, aluminum is heavily used in electrical engines, electric generators, etc. 

Production of Aluminum and Aluminum Prices

The Economics of aluminum is another important aspect. Also, we would like to assess the general economical situation of aluminum around the world in terms of different viewpoints such as investment in aluminum, production bases of aluminum, and logistics of aluminum. 

Investment and Prices of Aluminum

Different factors affect aluminum prices around the world. But in general, aluminum is not used as an investment tool. Because the unit value of aluminum is not high as gold or other valuable metals. So, aluminum prices are not generally affected by investor behaviors like gold. 

The most important factor that affects aluminum prices in the world is production and demand. The balance between aluminum supply and aluminum demand affects aluminum prices. And aluminum prices affect the industries which are using aluminum and aluminum-based materials to produce aluminum. So, to understand the behavior of aluminum prices, we can take a look at the production and the logistics of aluminum. 

Which Countries are the Biggest Aluminum Producers? 

According to statistics, the three biggest aluminum producer countries are China, India, and Russia. But China is the biggest producer by far. The aluminum production in China is maybe equal to aluminum combined production in other countries.

So, China and Chinese internal and external monetary politics will affect the aluminum prices in the world. There is a direct correlation between Chinese aluminum production and the prices of soda cans in your country 🙂 

While we are analyzing the prices of aluminum in the world, we need to consider the state of China and Chinese politics and logistics. 

Which Countries are the Biggest Aluminum Importers?

Again, if we look at the biggest importers of aluminum, the US is in the first place by far. The second importer in Germany. So, to understand and make an interpretation of aluminum prices, we need to also look at the importer’s situation. If there will be specific laws and studies are carried out in the US and Germany regarding the metal import, aluminum prices in the world will be affected by it. 

Logistics of Aluminum

A very big amount of aluminum is produced in China and exported to the US and Europe. Aluminum prices will be affected by the logistics of these countries. To analyze the prices of aluminum around the world, we need to analyze and follow the improvements and developments in logistics between these countries. 

Economic war between the US and China is not an extraordinary thing. This kind of situation between the US and China will affect aluminum prices around the world. 

How are the Aluminum Prices Around the World?

Source: tradingeconomics.com

In this chart, you can see the behavior of aluminum prices around the world. From this chart, we can understand that the maximum span of aluminum prices is between 1000-3500 dollars. If we interpret the last years of change in aluminum prices, we can say that there is a direct correlation with the economic war between the US and China. And probably, there is a direct correlation between the overcoming of the US from the 2008 economical crisis with the sharp decrease in aluminum prices in the world. 

As you understand, if there is no investor behavior inside a price of a material or metal, the prices can be interpreted like this. With this viewpoint and with a little investigation of the current economical and political situation in the world, you can assess the near future prices of aluminum. 

Conclusion

In this article, we tried to handle the topic of aluminum from the most general viewpoint and different viewpoints. We tried to give information about aluminum and its situation in the world to everybody from different professions. Aluminum is a very general topic and it can be expanded from different viewpoints. 

If you have additional information and comments about aluminum, please leave your comments and questions in the comments below! 

Your precious feedbacks are very important to us!

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2 responses to “What is Aluminum? Uses, Properties of Aluminum”

  1. It’s interesting to know that aluminum could be used in structural applications due to its corrosion resistance. My father and I are planning to build a small shed in our backyard and we’re picking out the materials to be used for it. I heard aluminum parts are good for construction so I’ll try suggesting it to him.

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