Aluminium is unique among all other metals, in that its alloys, engineering and metallurgical properties have been systematically designed and developed through the application of metallurgy, within its short history of just one century, in response to known engineering gaps and to the specific needs of society. It is a developed, not a discovered metal.
From its inception, matching its developments aluminium has been recycled not consumed, so beyond doubt leads and is at the forefront of the “Circular Economy”.
Truly the holistic and versatile properties of aluminium are establishing it as global designers’ metal of choice, substituting and displacing other strategic metals, materials, plastics, and carbon fibre.
Today, further advances in the metallurgy of aluminium are facilitating the design of innovative designs in every facet of society, in packaging, architecture, transport and life sciences and the harnessing of energy.
Fundamentally, aluminium is a light metal, 33% the density of steel, so through the correct application of design it can match the engineering strength of steel, while offering a 40 to 50% weight saving. Weight saving not only in product application, but through its entire life cycle from ore shipping and transportation.
The low melting point of aluminium, 660°C, coupled with its extreme liquid fluidity dominates intricate automotive castings, powertrain, combustion or electric motors, gearboxes, and braking, all coupled with weight savings.
Weight for weight aluminium has 200% the thermal and electrical conductivity of copper. Radical rethinking that has resulted in virtually all air conditioning systems being manufactured out of aluminium. In the United States aluminium wiring is displacing copper.
The ability at moderately high temperatures to be readily extruded sets aluminium apart from all other metals. The ultimate “Net Shaping Process”, most versatile of all metal forming process; designers” can put metal where they need it”.
Combining extrusion with the thermal properties of aluminium created heatsinks; without heatsinks, semiconductors and electronic chips cannot function. Hence aluminium is powering laptops, i-Phones and virtually every electronic device.
Conversely, the aluminium properties at extremely low temperatures have enabled the industrialisation of cryogenics.
Aluminium naturally forms a protective oxide, alumina; a hard, self-healing barrier to the environment, which bestows the highest corrosion resistance and longevity of most metals. Thus, given its short history some of the earliest aluminium products are still in original, prime condition.
One billion tons of aluminium have been refined during its short history, of which 75% is still in use and 50% in “first use”, testament to its engineered and metallurgical properties.
Read more: Why Aluminium?