Metalwork - Materials - Aluminium

Aluminium is the third most plentiful element of the Earth. Its special properties have led this very light metal to be one of the most well known and most used. In its pure form Aluminium is pretty useless. Its alloyed Properties make this metal one of the materials with most applications.
  • It is a light metal.
  • It is a good condutor of electricity.
  • It is resistant to corrosion, it does not rust.
  • It has a high grade of Plasticity.
  • It is a good thermic conductor.
  • It is not magnetic.
Aluminium in Ingot form
Aluminium has another property that hugley increases its value, especially in today's society where conservation of the enviornment is so important. Aluminium is totally recycleable without any loss to its physical properties.

Aluminium Manufacture

Aluminium being mined from an Open Cast MineAughinish Alumina Limited Plant in LimerickAluminium Ore, most commonly Bauxite, is very plentiful and is found mainly in tropical areas, such as Africa, West Indies, South America and Australia, where it is mined through Open Cast Mining, which you can see to the left. There are also some smaller deposits in Europe. Bauxite is converted into Aluminium Oxide Trihydrate but you can also call it Alumina and then electrolytically converted into Aluminium. Aluminium production facilities are located all over the world, usually in areas where there are abundant supplies of inexpensive energy, such as hydro-electric power.(Below this section you can see a map of the countries that are involved in the conversion of Bauxite to Aluminium.) In Ireland we have a large Alumina plant, (left). Aughinish Alumina Limited, (Alcan) is located at Aughinish Island, Askeaton, County Limerick. The plant sits on 350 acres of the 1,000-acre island in the River Shannon. About 90% to 95% of the Bauxite is shipped in from the Alcan mine in Guinea. The company annually produces about 1.4 million metric tons of Alumina from about 3 million metric tons of bauxite ore. You can vist the Aughinish web site at Aughinish Alumina Limited.

Map of Countries that are involved in the production of Aluminium.
The red countries are involved in the production of Aluminium

Uses of Aluminium

Aluminium is second only to Steel in terms of usefullness in today's society, and it is rapidly catching up. As was stated earlier Aluminium in its pure form is almost useless, but with the advance of alloying technology Aluminium alloys have taken over from many other metals in a wide range of areas. Besides the physical properties of Aluminium, listed at the top of the page, it has other advantages that othere metals do not.

Engine Block manufactured from Aluminium. Cartons which are internally sealed with Aluminium.Rods of varying shape which are manufactures from Aluminium.
Other advantages of Aluminium include :
  • Aluminium Ore is very plentiful, with no danger of world depletion.
  • Can be frozen or oven treated with no loss of properties.
  • It has one third the strength of steel but is much, much lighter.
  • It can be easily coloured or coated.
  • It can have a shiny or matt finish.
  • It is easily formed, using less energy than most other metals.
  • It is a very good barrier to light, gases, oils and fats, volatile compounds and water vapour, making it a very good container material.
A building whose roof is made from Aluminium.Aluminium chair.Airplane which has parts and body made from Aluminium.All of the above make Aluminium an excellent material for the production of the following items, among others : engine blocks, bottle tops, lining for cartons, sheet and bars, guttering, ladders, building materials, furniture, aluminium foil, milk bottle tops, baking trays, airplanes, pots and pans, vehicle bodies, window and door frames, electrical wire and cable, general packaging, etc.
Aluminium foil.Milk carton top made from Aluminium.House guttering made from Aluminium.

Recycling Of Aluminium

In many peoples eyes the most important fact about Aluminium is that it is completely recycleable, and it has to be said that this is a huge advantage. In today's society where saving the enviornment and the Ozone layer is so important, a metal that can be recycled with no loss of properties is invaluable. There are many recycling bins around Ireland for Aluminium cans. These cans are re-melted and then reused. This process uses less power than converting the Aluminium from Bauxite, so the Ozone layer gains, and because this Aluminium did not have to be mined, the enviornment gains.

Scrap Aluminium can ready for recycling.
The world's industry produces around 22 million tonnes of primary Aluminium a year, (that is Aluminium from the mines). And for every tonne of Aluminium 4 tonnes of Bauxite must be mined. In addition to primary production, more than 7 million tonnes per annum of Aluminium is produced from recycled scrap. The proportion of aluminium produced from scrap (so called secondary aluminium) is rising rapidly.