Aluminium ranks amongst the world's most abundant elements. After Silicon and Oxygen it is the most common element found in the Earth's crust, accounting for approximately 7.3% of the Earth's mass. Despite this abundance Aluminium only occurs in Nature in more complex compounds, and perhaps due to this its discovery1 was prolonged to 18082 by British Scientist Sir Humphry Davy giving the metal a relatively recent history. Since then the production of the metal has developed hugely.
The development of the Hall-Herout Method in 1886 gave an inexpensive method of extracting aluminium and since then the diversity of its end uses has vastly expanded. Aluminium is now used in foil, ladders, television sets, tennis rackets, power lines and aeroplanes, to name but a few. In terms of properties, the combination that Aluminium has is virtually unique. Aluminium is three times lighter than steel, and it is this lightweight property along with its strength that can be obtained in certain alloys (by altering the structure), that makes aluminium particularly important in air travel. It's high level of malleability (2nd most malleable metal) means it can be easily moulded into many shapes. Although aluminium has only 63% the electrical conductivity of copper it weighs just half as much, and given its the world's 6th most ductile metal its ideal for longer distance power cables.
Aluminium forms a 5 nm thick protective layer when exposed to air, making the metal very corrosion resistant, and ideal for using in the building industry as it is virtually maintenance free. So a perfect metal? Not quite. Aluminium has some weaknesses but these are few and often easy to overcome.
The information that was collected during this study has been used to answer several common questions regarding the relationship between the metal's properties and uses. The answers that have been written link the sections of the site together and show how the combination of factors, and properties of a material effect it's abilities to be used in the world today.
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