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ALUMINIUM

General informations

Aluminium is a lightweight, versatile metal with a wide variety of applications due to its high strength, corrosion resistance and thermal conductivity.

Of all the basic chemical elements, aluminium is the third most abundant on earth, making up around 8% of the earth’s crust.

The metal was first isolated in 1825 by the Danish physicist Hans Christian Orsted. Until then, aluminium was one of the rarest and most expensive metals in the world, a situation that changed only in the 1880s with the discovery of an inexpensive way to produce aluminium.

From that day forward, the applications and areas of use of the material became increasingly diverse – today, aluminium is indispensable in the construction, aviation, automotive and packaging industries as well as in electrical engineering.

Due to its properties, aluminium is often used as a substitute for steel and other metals, as it is lighter, more corrosion-resistant and much easier to work with.

Aluminium can be formed into a variety of shapes and sizes by extrusion, rolling, forging or casting, for example, and then processed in various ways, such as milling or turning.

By alloying it with other materials such as copper, magnesium, silicon or zinc, the properties of the aluminium can be adapted to the specific application.

Aluminium is also used in electrical engineering due to its outstanding thermal conductivity. It is a common material for the production of heat sinks, housings and other components in electronic devices such as smart phones and computers.

Its applications are almost limitless – aluminium is also a frequently used material in the construction industry due to its low weight and durability, and is used for doors, windows and façades, among other things.

The excellent recyclability of aluminium should also be emphasised – the material can be recycled as often as required with no negative impact on its quality. This process can save energy for the production of aluminium, significantly improving its ecological footprint.

In summary, aluminium is a versatile and very important material that is used in many industries due to its unique properties.

Chemical Symbol: AL
Density: 2,699 g/cm3
Atomic mass: 26,98

The Aluminiumprice

The prices for aluminum have been negotiated daily on the London Metal Exchange (LME) since 1978.

An important factor influencing the price of aluminum is the energy costs of metal production. The extraction of primary aluminum by molten salt electrolysis requires more energy than some other metals. The resulting energy costs therefore contribute significantly to the price of aluminum. It is therefore in the economic interest of the aluminum industry to reduce energy requirements and thus energy costs.

Although aluminum prices are sometimes higher than those of other materials, this “disadvantage” is more than made up for in aluminum applications. In the transport sector, for example, reducing the weight of vehicles results in a significant reduction in fuel consumption and emissions. In construction, the structural and design diversity of aluminum is also the prerequisite for realizing new ideas with lasting stability in architecture.

The fact that aluminum products are largely maintenance-free also contributes to long-term economic efficiency.

Recycling

The recycling efficiency of aluminum is very good because it is much more energy-efficient to melt down old aluminum (melting point >660 °C) than to obtain primary aluminum by breaking down bauxite (aluminum ore) and converting it into aluminum oxide with subsequent fused salt electrolysis.

Only 5% of the energy required for primary production is required for aluminum recycling. In addition, the amount of residue per ton of aluminum produced is reduced from two tons in primary aluminum production (especially red mud to be disposed of) to 100 kg in aluminum recycling (especially recyclable salt slag).

A large amount of electrical energy is required to extract aluminum from bauxite; primary energy sources can also be used for recycling. Since various alloying elements (e.g. magnesium) cannot be removed during remelting, if the material is not collected in a pure form, it is not fully recycled, but rather downcycled.

Nowadays, recycling of aluminium is an essential factor in achieving a sustainable economic cycle in the respective industries.

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