The Full Wiki

Aluminium: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.

Did you know ...

More interesting facts on Aluminium

Include this on your site/blog:


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia




General properties
Name, symbol, number aluminium, Al, 13
Element category other metal
Group, period, block 133, p
Standard atomic weight 26.9815386(13)g·mol−1
Electron configuration [Ne] 3s2 3p1
Electrons per shell 2, 8, 3 (Image)
Physical properties
Phase solid
Density (near r.t.) 2.70 g·cm−3
Liquid density at m.p. 2.375 g·cm−3
Melting point 933.47 K, 660.32 °C, 1220.58 °F
Boiling point 2792 K, 2519 °C, 4566 °F
Heat of fusion 10.71 kJ·mol−1
Heat of vaporization 294.0 kJ·mol−1
Specific heat capacity (25 °C) 24.200 J·mol−1·K−1
Vapor pressure
P/Pa 1 10 100 1 k 10 k 100 k
at T/K 1482 1632 1817 2054 2364 2790
Atomic properties
Oxidation states 3, 2[1], 1[2]
(amphoteric oxide)
Electronegativity 1.61 (Pauling scale)
Ionization energies
1st: 577.5 kJ·mol−1
2nd: 1816.7 kJ·mol−1
3rd: 2744.8 kJ·mol−1
Atomic radius 143 pm
Covalent radius 121±4 pm
Van der Waals radius 184 pm
Crystal structure face-centered cubic
Magnetic ordering paramagnetic[3]
Electrical resistivity (20 °C) 28.2 nΩ·m
Thermal conductivity (300 K) 237 W·m−1·K−1
Thermal expansion (25 °C) 23.1 µm·m−1·K−1
Speed of sound (thin rod) (r.t.) (rolled) 5,000 m·s−1
Young's modulus 70 GPa
Shear modulus 26 GPa
Bulk modulus 76 GPa
Poisson ratio 0.35
Mohs hardness 2.75
Vickers hardness 167 MPa
Brinell hardness 245 MPa
CAS registry number 7429-90-5
Most stable isotopes
Main article: Isotopes of aluminium
iso NA half-life DM DE (MeV) DP
26Al trace 7.17×105y β+ 1.17 26Mg
ε - 26Mg
γ 1.8086 -
27Al 100% 27Al is stable with 14 neutrons

Aluminium (En-uk-aluminium1.ogg ˌæljʊˈmɪniəm , al-yoo-MIN-ee-əm or En-US-Aluminium.ogg ˌaluˈmɪniəm , a-loo-MIN-ee-əm [4]) or aluminum (En-us-aluminum.ogg /əˈluːmɪnəm/ , spelling below) is a silvery white and ductile member of the boron group of chemical elements. It has the symbol Al and its atomic number is 13. It is not soluble in water under normal circumstances. Aluminium is the most abundant metal in the Earth's crust, and the third most abundant element therein, after oxygen and silicon. It makes up about 8% by weight of the Earth's solid surface. Aluminium is too reactive chemically to occur in nature as a free metal. Instead, it is found combined in over 270 different minerals.[5] The chief source of aluminium is bauxite ore.

Aluminium is remarkable for the metal's low density and for its ability to resist corrosion due to the phenomenon of passivation. Structural components made from aluminium and its alloys are vital to the aerospace industry and are very important in other areas of transportation and building. Its reactive nature makes it useful as a catalyst or additive in chemical mixtures, including ammonium nitrate explosives, to enhance blast power.



Etched surface from a high purity (99.9998%) aluminium bar, size 55×37 mm

Aluminium is a soft, durable, lightweight, malleable metal with appearance ranging from silvery to dull grey, depending on the surface roughness. Aluminium is nonmagnetic and nonsparking. It is also insoluble in alcohol, though it can be soluble in water in certain forms. The yield strength of pure aluminium is 7–11 MPa, while aluminium alloys have yield strengths ranging from 200 MPa to 600 MPa.[6] Aluminium has about one-third the density and stiffness of steel. It is ductile, and easily machined, cast, drawn and extruded.

Corrosion resistance can be excellent due to a thin surface layer of aluminium oxide that forms when the metal is exposed to air, effectively preventing further oxidation. The strongest aluminium alloys are less corrosion resistant due to galvanic reactions with alloyed copper.[6] This corrosion resistance is also often greatly reduced when many aqueous salts are present, particularly in the presence of dissimilar metals.

Aluminium atoms are arranged in a face-centred cubic (fcc) structure. Aluminium has a stacking-fault energy of approximately 200 mJ/m2.[7]

Aluminium is one of the few metals that retain full silvery reflectance in finely powdered form, making it an important component of silver paints. Aluminium mirror finish has the highest reflectance of any metal in the 200–400 nm (UV) and the 3,000–10,000 nm (far IR) regions; in the 400–700 nm visible range it is slightly outperformed by tin and silver and in the 700–3000 (near IR) by silver, gold, and copper.[8]

Aluminium is a good thermal and electrical conductor, having 62% the conductivity of copper. Aluminium is capable of being a superconductor, with a superconducting critical temperature of 1.2 kelvins and a critical magnetic field of about 100 gauss (10 milliteslas).[9]


Aluminium has nine isotopes, whose mass numbers range from 23 to 30. Only 27Al (stable isotope) and 26Al (radioactive isotope, t1/2 = 7.2×105 y) occur naturally; however, 27Al has a natural abundance above 99.9%. 26Al is produced from argon in the atmosphere by spallation caused by cosmic-ray protons. Aluminium isotopes have found practical application in dating marine sediments, manganese nodules, glacial ice, quartz in rock exposures, and meteorites. The ratio of 26Al to 10Be has been used to study the role of transport, deposition, sediment storage, burial times, and erosion on 105 to 106 year time scales.[10] Cosmogenic 26Al was first applied in studies of the Moon and meteorites. Meteoroid fragments, after departure from their parent bodies, are exposed to intense cosmic-ray bombardment during their travel through space, causing substantial 26Al production. After falling to Earth, atmospheric shielding protects the meteorite fragments from further 26Al production, and its decay can then be used to determine the meteorite's terrestrial age. Meteorite research has also shown that 26Al was relatively abundant at the time of formation of our planetary system. Most meteorite scientists believe that the energy released by the decay of 26Al was responsible for the melting and differentiation of some asteroids after their formation 4.55 billion years ago.[11]

Natural occurrence

In the Earth's crust, aluminium is the most abundant (8.3% by weight) metallic element and the third most abundant of all elements (after oxygen and silicon).[12] Because of its strong affinity to oxygen, however, it is almost never found in the elemental state; instead it is found in oxides or silicates. Feldspars, the most common group of minerals in the Earth's crust, are aluminosilicates. Native aluminium metal can be found as a minor phase in low oxygen fugacity environments, such as the interiors of certain volcanoes.[13] It also occurs in the minerals beryl, cryolite, garnet, spinel and turquoise.[12] Impurities in Al2O3, such as chromium or cobalt yield the gemstones ruby and sapphire, respectively. Pure Al2O3, known as corundum, is one of the hardest materials known.[12]

Although aluminium is an extremely common and widespread element, the common aluminium minerals are not economic sources of the metal. Almost all metallic aluminium is produced from the ore bauxite (AlOx(OH)3-2x). Bauxite occurs as a weathering product of low iron and silica bedrock in tropical climatic conditions.[14] Large deposits of bauxite occur in Australia, Brazil, Guinea and Jamaica but the primary mining areas for the ore are in Ghana, Indonesia, Jamaica, Russia and Surinam.[15] Smelting of the ore mainly occurs in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Norway, Russia and the United States. Because smelting is an energy-intensive process, regions with excess natural gas supplies (such as the United Arab Emirates) are becoming aluminium refiners.

Production and refinement

Although aluminium is the most abundant metallic element in the Earth's crust, it is rare in its free form, occurring in oxygen-deficient environments such as volcanic mud, and it was once considered a precious metal more valuable than gold. Napoleon III, Emperor of France, is reputed to have given a banquet where the most honoured guests were given aluminium utensils, while the others had to make do with gold.[16][17] The Washington Monument was completed, with the 100 ounce (2.8 kg) aluminium capstone being put in place on December 6, 1884, in an elaborate dedication ceremony. It was the largest single piece of aluminium cast at the time, when aluminium was as expensive as silver.[18] Aluminium has been produced in commercial quantities for just over 100 years.


Aluminium is a strongly reactive metal that forms a high-energy chemical bond with oxygen. Compared to most other metals, it is difficult to extract from ore, such as bauxite, due to the energy required to reduce aluminium oxide (Al2O3). For example, direct reduction with carbon, as is used to produce iron, is not chemically possible, since aluminium is a stronger reducing agent than carbon. However there is an indirect carbothermic reduction possible by using carbon and Al2O3 which forms an intermediate Al4C3 and this can further yield aluminium metal at a temperature of 1900–2000°C. This process is still under development. This process costs less energy and yields less CO2 than the Hall-Héroult process.[19] Aluminium oxide has a melting point of about 2,000 °C (3,600 °F). Therefore, it must be extracted by electrolysis. In this process, the aluminium oxide is dissolved in molten cryolite and then reduced to the pure metal. The operational temperature of the reduction cells is around 950 to 980 °C (1,740 to 1,800 °F). Cryolite is found as a mineral in Greenland, but in industrial use it has been replaced by a synthetic substance. Cryolite is a chemical compound of aluminium, sodium, and calcium fluorides: (Na3AlF6). The aluminium oxide (a white powder) is obtained by refining bauxite in the Bayer process of Karl Bayer. (Previously, the Deville process was the predominant refining technology.)

The electrolytic process replaced the Wöhler process, which involved the reduction of anhydrous aluminium chloride with potassium. Both of the electrodes used in the electrolysis of aluminium oxide are carbon. Once the refined alumina is dissolved in the electrolyte, its ions are free to move around. The reaction at the cathode is:

Al3+ + 3 e → Al

Here the aluminium ion is being reduced. The aluminium metal then sinks to the bottom and is tapped off, usually cast into large blocks called aluminium billets for further processing.

At the anode, oxygen is formed:

2 O2− → O2 + 4 e

This carbon anode is then oxidized by the oxygen, releasing carbon dioxide:

O2 + C → CO2

The anodes in a reduction cell must therefore be replaced regularly, since they are consumed in the process.

Unlike the anodes, the cathodes are not oxidized because there is no oxygen present, as the carbon cathodes are protected by the liquid aluminium inside the cells. Nevertheless, cathodes do erode, mainly due to electrochemical processes and metal movement. After five to ten years, depending on the current used in the electrolysis, a cell has to be rebuilt because of cathode wear.

World production trend of aluminium

Aluminium electrolysis with the Hall-Héroult process consumes a lot of energy, but alternative processes were always found to be less viable economically and/or ecologically. The worldwide average specific energy consumption is approximately 15±0.5 kilowatt-hours per kilogram of aluminium produced (52 to 56 MJ/kg). The most modern smelters achieve approximately 12.8 kW·h/kg (46.1 MJ/kg). (Compare this to the heat of reaction, 31 MJ/kg, and the Gibbs free energy of reaction, 29 MJ/kg.) Reduction line currents for older technologies are typically 100 to 200 kiloamperes; state-of-the-art smelters[20] operate at about 350 kA. Trials have been reported with 500 kA cells.

Electric power represents about 20% to 40% of the cost of producing aluminium, depending on the location of the smelter. Smelters tend to be situated where electric power is both plentiful and inexpensive, such as South Africa, Ghana, the South Island of New Zealand, Australia, the People's Republic of China, the Middle East, Russia, Quebec and British Columbia in Canada, and Iceland.[21]

Aluminium output in 2005

In 2005, the People's Republic of China was the top producer of aluminium with almost a one-fifth world share, followed by Russia, Canada, and the USA, reports the British Geological Survey.

Over the last 50 years, Australia has become a major producer of bauxite ore and a major producer and exporter of alumina.[22] Australia produced 62 million tonnes of bauxite in 2005. The Australian deposits have some refining problems, some being high in silica but have the advantage of being shallow and relatively easy to mine.[23]


Aluminium recycling code

Aluminium is 100% recyclable without any loss of its natural qualities. Recovery of the metal via recycling has become an important facet of the aluminium industry.

Recycling involves melting the scrap, a process that requires only five percent of the energy used to produce aluminium from ore. However, a significant part (up to 15% of the input material) is lost as dross (ash-like oxide).[24] The dross can undergo a further process to extract aluminium.

Recycling was a low-profile activity until the late 1960s, when the growing use of aluminium beverage cans brought it to the public awareness.

In Europe aluminium experiences high rates of recycling, ranging from 42% of beverage cans, 85% of construction materials and 95% of transport vehicles.[25]

Recycled aluminium is known as secondary aluminium, but maintains the same physical properties as primary aluminium. Secondary aluminium is produced in a wide range of formats and is employed in 80% of the alloy injections. Another important use is for extrusion.

White dross from primary aluminium production and from secondary recycling operations still contains useful quantities of aluminium which can be extracted industrially.[26] The process produces aluminium billets, together with a highly complex waste material. This waste is difficult to manage. It reacts with water, releasing a mixture of gases (including, among others, hydrogen, acetylene, and ammonia) which spontaneously ignites on contact with air;[27] contact with damp air results in the release of copious quantities of ammonia gas. Despite these difficulties, however, the waste has found use as a filler in asphalt and concrete.[28]


Oxidation state +1

AlH is produced when aluminium is heated in an atmosphere of hydrogen. Al2O is made by heating the normal oxide, Al2O3, with silicon at 1,800 °C (3,272 °F) in a vacuum.[29]

Al2S can be made by heating Al2S3 with aluminium shavings at 1,300 °C (2,372 °F) in a vacuum.[29] It quickly disproportionates to the starting materials. The selenide is made in a parallel manner.

AlF, AlCl and AlBr exist in the gaseous phase when the tri-halide is heated with aluminium. Aluminium halides usually exist in the form AlX3, where X is F, Cl, Br, or I.[29]

Oxidation state +2

Aluminium monoxide, AlO, has been detected in the gas phase after explosion[30] and in stellar absorption spectra.[31]

Oxidation state +3

Fajans' rules show that the simple trivalent cation Al3+ is not expected to be found in anhydrous salts or binary compounds such as Al2O3. The hydroxide is a weak base and aluminium salts of weak acids, such as carbonate, cannot be prepared. The salts of strong acids, such as nitrate, are stable and soluble in water, forming hydrates with at least six molecules of water of crystallization.

Aluminium hydride, (AlH3)n, can be produced from trimethylaluminium and an excess of hydrogen. It burns explosively in air. It can also be prepared by the action of aluminium chloride on lithium hydride in ether solution, but cannot be isolated free from the solvent. Alumino-hydrides of the most electropositive elements are known, the most useful being lithium aluminium hydride, Li[AlH4]. It decomposes into lithium hydride, aluminium and hydrogen when heated, and is hydrolysed by water. It has many uses in organic chemistry, particularly as a reducing agent. The aluminohalides have a similar structure.

Aluminium hydroxide may be prepared as a gelatinous precipitate by adding ammonia to an aqueous solution of an aluminium salt. It is amphoteric, being both a very weak acid, and forming aluminates with alkalis. It exists in various crystalline forms.

Aluminium carbide, Al4C3 is made by heating a mixture of the elements above 1,000 °C (1,832 °F). The pale yellow crystals have a complex lattice structure, and react with water or dilute acids to give methane. The acetylide, Al2(C2)3, is made by passing acetylene over heated aluminium.

Aluminium nitride, AlN, can be made from the elements at 800 °C (1,472 °F). It is hydrolysed by water to form ammonia and aluminium hydroxide. Aluminium phosphide, AlP, is made similarly, and hydrolyses to give phosphine.

Aluminium oxide, Al2O3, occurs naturally as corundum, and can be made by burning aluminium in oxygen or by heating the hydroxide, nitrate or sulfate. As a gemstone, its hardness is only exceeded by diamond, boron nitride, and carborundum. It is almost insoluble in water. Aluminium sulfide, Al2S3, may be prepared by passing hydrogen sulfide over aluminium powder. It is polymorphic.

Aluminium iodide, AlI3, is a dimer with applications in organic synthesis. Aluminium fluoride, AlF3, is made by treating the hydroxide with HF, or can be made from the elements. It consists of a giant molecule which sublimes without melting at 1,291 °C (2,356 °F). It is very inert. The other trihalides are dimeric, having a bridge-like structure.

When aluminium and fluoride are together in aqueous solution, they readily form complex ions such as [AlF(H2O)5]2+, AlF3(H2O)3, and [AlF6]3−. Of these, [AlF6]3− is the most stable. This is explained by the fact that aluminium and fluoride, which are both very compact ions, fit together just right to form the octahedral aluminium hexafluoride complex. When aluminium and fluoride are together in water in a 1:6 molar ratio, [AlF6]3− is the most common form, even in rather low concentrations.

Organometallic compounds of empirical formula AlR3 exist and, if not also polymers, are at least dimers or trimers. They have some uses in organic synthesis, for instance trimethylaluminium.


The presence of aluminium can be detected in qualitative analysis using aluminon.


General use

Aluminium is the most widely used non-ferrous metal.[32] Global production of aluminium in 2005 was 31.9 million tonnes. It exceeded that of any other metal except iron (837.5 million tonnes).[33] Forecast for 2012 is 42–45 million tons, driven by rising Chinese output.[34] Relatively pure aluminium is encountered only when corrosion resistance and/or workability is more important than strength or hardness. A thin layer of aluminium can be deposited onto a flat surface by physical vapour deposition or (very infrequently) chemical vapour deposition or other chemical means to form optical coatings and mirrors. When so deposited, a fresh, pure aluminium film serves as a good reflector (approximately 92%) of visible light and an excellent reflector (as much as 98%) of medium and far infrared radiation.

Pure aluminium has a low tensile strength, but when combined with thermo-mechanical processing, aluminium alloys display a marked improvement in mechanical properties, especially when tempered. Aluminium alloys form vital components of aircraft and rockets as a result of their high strength-to-weight ratio. Aluminium readily forms alloys with many elements such as copper, zinc, magnesium, manganese and silicon (e.g., duralumin). Today, almost all bulk metal materials that are referred to loosely as "aluminium", are actually alloys. For example, the common aluminium foils are alloys of 92% to 99% aluminium.[35]

Household aluminium foil
Aluminium-bodied Austin "A40 Sports" (circa 1951)
Aluminium slabs being transported from the smelters

Some of the many uses for aluminium metal are in:

Aluminium compounds

  • Aluminium borate (Al2O3 B2O3) is used in the production of glass and ceramic.
  • Aluminium fluorosilicate (Al2(SiF6)3) is used in the production of synthetic gemstones, glass and ceramic.
  • Aluminium hydroxide (Al(OH)3) is used: as an antacid, as a mordant, in water purification, in the manufacture of glass and ceramic and in the waterproofing of fabrics.
  • Aluminium sulfate (Al2(SO4)3) is used: in the manufacture of paper, as a mordant, in a fire extinguisher, in water purification and sewage treatment, as a food additive, in fireproofing, and in leather tanning.
  • Aqueous Aluminium ions (such as found in aqueous Aluminium Sulfate) are used to treat against fish parasites such as Gyrodactylus salaris.
  • In many vaccines, certain aluminium salts serve as an immune adjuvant (immune response booster) to allow the protein in the vaccine to achieve sufficient potency as an immune stimulant.

Aluminium alloys in structural applications

Aluminium alloys with a wide range of properties are used in engineering structures. Alloy systems are classified by a number system (ANSI) or by names indicating their main alloying constituents (DIN and ISO).

The strength and durability of aluminium alloys vary widely, not only as a result of the components of the specific alloy, but also as a result of heat treatments and manufacturing processes. A lack of knowledge of these aspects has from time to time led to improperly designed structures and gained aluminium a bad reputation.

One important structural limitation of aluminium alloys is their fatigue strength. Unlike steels, aluminium alloys have no well-defined fatigue limit, meaning that fatigue failure will eventually occur under even very small cyclic loadings. This implies that engineers must assess these loads and design for a fixed life rather than an infinite life.

Another important property of aluminium alloys is their sensitivity to heat. Workshop procedures involving heating are complicated by the fact that aluminium, unlike steel, will melt without first glowing red. Forming operations where a blow torch is used therefore requires some expertise, since no visual signs reveal how close the material is to melting. Aluminium alloys, like all structural alloys, also are subject to internal stresses following heating operations such as welding and casting. The problem with aluminium alloys in this regard is their low melting point, which make them more susceptible to distortions from thermally induced stress relief. Controlled stress relief can be done during manufacturing by heat-treating the parts in an oven, followed by gradual cooling—in effect annealing the stresses.

The low melting point of aluminium alloys has not precluded their use in rocketry; even for use in constructing combustion chambers where gases can reach 3500 K. The Agena upper stage engine used a regeneratively cooled aluminium design for some parts of the nozzle, including the thermally critical throat region.

Household wiring

Compared to copper, aluminium has about 65% of the electrical conductivity by volume, although 200% by weight. Traditionally copper is used as household wiring material. In the 1960s aluminium was considerably cheaper than copper, and so was introduced for household electrical wiring in the United States, even though many fixtures had not been designed to accept aluminium wire. In some cases the greater coefficient of thermal expansion of aluminium causes the wire to expand and contract relative to the dissimilar metal screw connection, eventually loosening the connection. Also, pure aluminium has a tendency to creep under steady sustained pressure (to a greater degree as the temperature rises), again loosening the connection. Finally, Galvanic corrosion from the dissimilar metals increased the electrical resistance of the connection.

All of this resulted in overheated and loose connections, and this in turn resulted in fires. Builders then became wary of using the wire, and many jurisdictions outlawed its use in very small sizes in new construction. Eventually, newer fixtures were introduced with connections designed to avoid loosening and overheating. The first generation fixtures were marked "Al/Cu" and were ultimately found suitable only for copper-clad aluminium wire, but the second generation fixtures, which bear a "CO/ALR" coding, are rated for unclad aluminium wire. To adapt older assemblies, workers forestall the heating problem using a properly-done crimp of the aluminium wire to a short "pigtail" of copper wire. Today, new alloys, designs, and methods are used for aluminium wiring in combination with aluminium termination.


The statue of the Anteros (commonly mistaken for either The Angel of Christian Charity or Eros) in Piccadilly Circus London, was made in 1893 and is one of the first statues to be cast in aluminium.

Ancient Greeks and Romans used aluminium salts as dyeing mordants and as astringents for dressing wounds; alum is still used as a styptic. In 1761 Guyton de Morveau suggested calling the base alum alumine. In 1808, Humphry Davy identified the existence of a metal base of alum, which he at first termed alumium and later aluminum (see Etymology section, below).

The metal was first produced in 1825 (in an impure form) by Danish physicist and chemist Hans Christian Ørsted. He reacted anhydrous aluminium chloride with potassium amalgam and yielded a lump of metal looking similar to tin.[37] Friedrich Wöhler was aware of these experiments and cited them, but after redoing the experiments of Ørsted he concluded that this metal was pure potassium. He conducted a similar experiment in 1827 by mixing anhydrous aluminium chloride with potassium and yielded aluminium.[37] Wöhler is generally credited with isolating aluminium (Latin alumen, alum), but also Ørsted can be listed as its discoverer.[38] Further, Pierre Berthier discovered aluminium in bauxite ore and successfully extracted it.[39] Frenchman Henri Etienne Sainte-Claire Deville improved Wöhler's method in 1846, and described his improvements in a book in 1859, chief among these being the substitution of sodium for the considerably more expensive potassium.

(Note: The title of Deville's book is De l'aluminium, ses propriétés, sa fabrication (Paris, 1859). Deville likely also conceived the idea of the electrolysis of aluminium oxide dissolved in cryolite; however, Charles Martin Hall and Paul Héroult might have developed the more practical process after Deville.)

Before the Hall-Héroult process was developed, aluminium was exceedingly difficult to extract from its various ores. This made pure aluminium more valuable than gold.[40] Bars of aluminium were exhibited at the Exposition Universelle of 1855,[41] and Napoleon III was said[citation needed] to have reserved a set of aluminium dinner plates for his most honoured guests.

Aluminium was selected as the material to be used for the apex of the Washington Monument in 1884, a time when one ounce (30 grams) cost the daily wage of a common worker on the project;[42] aluminium was about the same value as silver.

The Cowles companies supplied aluminium alloy in quantity in the United States and England using smelters like the furnace of Carl Wilhelm Siemens by 1886.[43] Charles Martin Hall of Ohio in the U.S. and Paul Héroult of France independently developed the Hall-Héroult electrolytic process that made extracting aluminium from minerals cheaper and is now the principal method used worldwide. The Hall-Heroult process cannot produce Super Purity Aluminium directly. Hall's process,[44] in 1888 with the financial backing of Alfred E. Hunt, started the Pittsburgh Reduction Company today known as Alcoa. Héroult's process was in production by 1889 in Switzerland at Aluminium Industrie, now Alcan, and at British Aluminium, now Luxfer Group and Alcoa, by 1896 in Scotland.[45]

By 1895 the metal was being used as a building material as far away as Sydney, Australia in the dome of the Chief Secretary's Building.

Many navies use an aluminium superstructure for their vessels, however, the 1975 fire aboard USS Belknap that gutted her aluminium superstructure, as well as observation of battle damage to British ships during the Falklands War, led to many navies switching to all steel superstructures. The Arleigh Burke class was the first such U.S. ship, being constructed entirely of steel.

In 2008 the price of aluminium peaked at $1.45/lb in July but dropped to $0.70/lb by December.[46]


Nomenclature history

The earliest citation given in the Oxford English Dictionary for any word used as a name for this element is alumium, which British chemist and inventor Humphry Davy employed in 1808 for the metal he was trying to isolate electrolytically from the mineral alumina. The citation is from the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London: "Had I been so fortunate as to have obtained more certain evidences on this subject, and to have procured the metallic substances I was in search of, I should have proposed for them the names of silicium, alumium, zirconium, and glucium."[47][48]

Davy had settled on aluminum by the time he published his 1812 book Chemical Philosophy: "This substance appears to contain a peculiar metal, but as yet Aluminum has not been obtained in a perfectly free state, though alloys of it with other metalline substances have been procured sufficiently distinct to indicate the probable nature of alumina."[49] But the same year, an anonymous contributor to the Quarterly Review, a British political-literary journal, in a review of Davy's book, objected to aluminum and proposed the name aluminium, "for so we shall take the liberty of writing the word, in preference to aluminum, which has a less classical sound."[50]

The -ium suffix conformed to the precedent set in other newly discovered elements of the time: potassium, sodium, magnesium, calcium, and strontium (all of which Davy had isolated himself). Nevertheless, -um spellings for elements were not unknown at the time, as for example platinum, known to Europeans since the sixteenth century, molybdenum, discovered in 1778, and tantalum, discovered in 1802. The -um suffix is consistent with the universal spelling alumina for the oxide, as lanthana is the oxide of lanthanum, and magnesia, ceria, and thoria are the oxides of magnesium, cerium, and thorium respectively.

The spelling used throughout the 19th century by most U.S. chemists ended in -ium, but common usage is less clear.[51] The -um spelling is used in the Webster's Dictionary of 1828. In his advertising handbill for his new electrolytic method of producing the metal 1892, Charles Martin Hall used the -um spelling, despite his constant use of the -ium spelling in all the patents[44] he filed between 1886 and 1903.[52] It has consequently been suggested that the spelling reflects an easier to pronounce word with one fewer syllable, or that the spelling on the flier was a mistake. Hall's domination of production of the metal ensured that the spelling aluminum became the standard in North America; the Webster Unabridged Dictionary of 1913, though, continued to use the -ium version.

In 1926, the American Chemical Society officially decided to use aluminum in its publications; American dictionaries typically label the spelling aluminium as a British variant.

The name "aluminum" is derived from its status as a base of alum; "alum" in turn is a Latin word which literally means "bitter salt".[53]

Present-day spelling

Most countries use the spelling aluminium (with an i before -um). In the United States, this spelling is largely unknown, and the spelling aluminum predominates.[54][55] The Canadian Oxford Dictionary prefers aluminum, whereas the Australian Macquarie Dictionary prefers aluminium.

The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) adopted aluminium as the standard international name for the element in 1990, but three years later recognized aluminum as an acceptable variant. Hence their periodic table includes both.[56] IUPAC officially prefers the use of aluminium in its internal publications, although several IUPAC publications use the spelling aluminum.[57]

Health concerns

Despite its natural abundance, aluminium has no known function in living cells and presents some toxic effects in elevated concentrations. Its toxicity can be traced to deposition in bone and the central nervous system, which is particularly increased in patients with reduced renal function. Because aluminium competes with calcium for absorption, increased amounts of dietary aluminium may contribute to the reduced skeletal mineralization (osteopenia) observed in preterm infants and infants with growth retardation. In very high doses, aluminium can cause neurotoxicity, and is associated with altered function of the blood-brain barrier.[58] A small percentage of people are allergic to aluminium and experience contact dermatitis, digestive disorders, vomiting or other symptoms upon contact or ingestion of products containing aluminium, such as deodorants or antacids. In those without allergies, aluminium is not as toxic as heavy metals, but there is evidence of some toxicity if it is consumed in excessive amounts.[59] Although the use of aluminium cookware has not been shown to lead to aluminium toxicity in general, excessive consumption of antacids containing aluminium compounds and excessive use of aluminium-containing antiperspirants provide more significant exposure levels. Studies have shown that consumption of acidic foods or liquids with aluminium significantly increases aluminium absorption,[60] and maltol has been shown to increase the accumulation of aluminium in nervous and osseus tissue.[61] Furthermore, aluminium increases estrogen-related gene expression in human breast cancer cells cultured in the laboratory.[62] These salts' estrogen-like effects have led to their classification as a metalloestrogen.

Because of its potentially toxic effects, aluminium's use in some antiperspirants, dyes (such as aluminium lake), and food additives is controversial. Although there is little evidence that normal exposure to aluminium presents a risk to healthy adults,[63] several studies point to risks associated with increased exposure to the metal.[64] Aluminium in food may be absorbed more than aluminium from water.[65] Some researchers have expressed concerns that the aluminium in antiperspirants may increase the risk of breast cancer,[66] and aluminium has controversially been implicated as a factor in Alzheimer's disease.[67] The Camelford water pollution incident involved a number of people consuming aluminium sulphate. Investigations of the long-term health effects are still ongoing, but elevated brain aluminium concentrations have been found in post-mortem examinations of victims who have later died, and further research to determine if there is a link with cerebral amyloid angiopathy has been commissioned.[68]

According to The Alzheimer's Society, the overwhelming medical and scientific opinion is that studies have not convincingly demonstrated a causal relationship between aluminium and Alzheimer's disease.[69] Nevertheless, some studies, such as those on the PAQUID cohort,[70] cite aluminium exposure as a risk factor for Alzheimer's disease. Some brain plaques have been found to contain increased levels of the metal.[71] Research in this area has been inconclusive; aluminium accumulation may be a consequence of the disease rather than a causal agent. In any event, if there is any toxicity of aluminium, it must be via a very specific mechanism, since total human exposure to the element in the form of naturally occurring clay in soil and dust is enormously large over a lifetime.[72][73] Scientific consensus does not yet exist about whether aluminium exposure could directly increase the risk of Alzheimer's disease.[69]

Effect on plants

Aluminium is primary among the factors that reduce plant growth on acid soils. Although it is generally harmless to plant growth in pH-neutral soils, the concentration in acid soils of toxic Al3+ cations increases and disturbs root growth and function.[74][75][76]

Most acid soils are saturated with aluminium rather than hydrogen ions. The acidity of the soil is therefore a result of hydrolysis of aluminium compounds.[77] This concept of "corrected lime potential"[78] to define the degree of base saturation in soils became the basis for procedures now used in soil testing laboratories to determine the "lime requirement"[79] of soils.[80]

Wheat's adaptation to allow aluminium tolerance is such that the aluminium induces a release of organic compounds that bind to the harmful aluminium cations. Sorghum is believed to have the same tolerance mechanism. The first gene for aluminium tolerance has been identified in wheat. It was shown that sorghum's aluminium tolerance is controlled by a single gene, as for wheat.[81] This is not the case in all plants.

See also


  1. ^ Aluminium monoxide
  2. ^ Aluminium iodide
  3. ^ Magnetic susceptibility of the elements and inorganic compounds, in Handbook of Chemistry and Physics 81st edition, CRC press.
  4. ^
  5. ^ Bassam Z. Shakhashiri. "Chemical of the Week: Aluminum". Science is Fun. Retrieved 2007-08-28. 
  6. ^ a b Polmear, I. J. (1995). Light Alloys: Metallurgy of the Light Metals. Arnold. ISBN 9780340632079. 
  7. ^ Dieter G. E. (1988). Mechanical Metallurgy. McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0070168938. 
  8. ^ H. A. Macleod (2001). Thin-film optical filters. CRC Press. pp. 158–159. ISBN 0750306882. 
  9. ^ John F. Cochran and D. E. Mapother (July 1958). "Superconducting Transition in Aluminum". Physical Review 111 (1): 132–142. doi:10.1103/PhysRev.111.132. 
  10. ^ "Cosmogenic Isotopes and Aluminum". 
  11. ^ Robert T. Dodd (1986). Thunderstones and Shooting Stars. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. pp. 89–90. ISBN 0-674-89137-6. 
  12. ^ a b c Greenwood, Norman N.; Earnshaw, A. (1997), Chemistry of the Elements (2nd ed.), Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann, ISBN 0-7506-3365-4 
  13. ^ "Aluminum Mineral Data". Retrieved 2008-07-09. 
  14. ^ Guilbert, John M. and Carles F. Park (1986). The Geology of Ore Deposits. Freeman. pp. 774–795. ISBN 0-7167-1456-6. 
  15. ^ Emsley, John (2001). "Aluminium". Nature's Building Blocks: An A-Z Guide to the Elements. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. p. 24. ISBN 0198503407. 
  16. ^ S Venetski (July 1969). ""Silver" from clay". Metallurgist 13: 451. doi:10.1007/BF00741130. 
  17. ^ ChemMatters October 1990 p. 14.
  18. ^ G. J. Binczewski (1995). "The Point of a Monument: A History of the Aluminum Cap of the Washington Monument". JOM 47: 20. 
  19. ^ John A. S. Green (2007). Aluminum recycling and processing for energy conservation and sustainability. Materials Park, Ohio: ASM International. p. 198. ISBN 0871708590. 
  20. ^ "Aluminium Smelters". AME Mineral Economics. Retrieved 2008-04-17. 
  21. ^ Christoph Schmitz, Josef Domagala, Petra Haag (2006). Handbook of aluminium recycling: fundamentals, mechanical preparation, metallurgical processing, plant design. Vulkan-Verlag GmbH. p. 27. ISBN 3802729366. 
  22. ^ "The Australian Industry". Australian Aluminium Council. Retrieved 2007-08-11. 
  23. ^ "Australian Bauxite". Australian Aluminium Council. Retrieved 2007-08-11. 
  24. ^ "Benefits of Recycling". Ohio Department of Natural Resources. 
  25. ^ "Reciclado del aluminio. ASERAL". 
  26. ^ Hwang, J.Y., Huang, X., Xu, Z. (2006). "Recovery of Metals from Aluminium Dross and Salt cake". Journal of Minerals & Materials Characterization & Engineering 5: 47. 
  27. ^ "Why are dross & saltcake a concern?". 
  28. ^ Dunster, A.M., Moulinier, F., Abbott, B., Conroy, A., Adams, K., Widyatmoko, D.(2005). Added value of using new industrial waste streams as secondary aggregates in both concrete and asphalt. DTI/WRAP Aggregates Research Programme STBF 13/15C. The Waste and Resources Action Programme.
  29. ^ a b c Dohmeier, C.; Loos, D.; Schnöckel, H. (1996). "Aluminum(I) and Gallium(I) Compounds: Syntheses, Structures, and Reactions". Angewandte Chemie International Edition 35: 129. doi:10.1002/anie.199601291. 
  30. ^ D. C. Tyte (1964). "Red (B2Π–A2σ) Band System of Aluminium Monoxide". Nature 202: 383. doi:10.1038/202383a0. 
  31. ^ Merrill, P. W., Deutsch, A. J., & Keenan, P. C. (1962). "Absorption Spectra of M-Type Mira Variables". Astrophysical Journal 136: 21. doi:10.1086/147348. 
  32. ^ "aluminum". Encyclopædia Britannica. 
  33. ^ L E Hetherington, T J Brown, A J Benham, P A J Lusty, N E Idoine (2007) (available online). World Mineral Production: 2001–2005. British Geological Survey. ISBN 978-0-85272-592-4. 
  34. ^ Rising Chinese Costs to Support Aluminum Prices Bloomberg News, November 23, 2009
  35. ^ L. S. Millberg. "Aluminum Foil". How Products are Made. Retrieved 2007-08-11. 
  36. ^ "Aluminum in Watchmaking". Retrieved 2009-06-06. 
  37. ^ a b Wöhler, Friedrich. "Ueber das Aluminium". Annalen der Physik und Chemie. 
  38. ^ Yinon Bentor. "Periodic Table: Aluminum". Retrieved 2007-08-11. 
  39. ^ "Pierre Berthier". Today in Science History. Retrieved 2007-08-11. 
  40. ^ I.J. Polmear. (2006). "Production of Aluminium". Light alloys from traditional alloys to nanocrystals. Oxford: Elsevier/Butterworth-Heinemann. pp. 15–16. ISBN 9780750663717. 
  41. ^ Karmarsch, Carl (1864). "Fernerer Beitrag zur Geschichte des Aluminiums". Polytechnisches Journal 171 (1). 
  42. ^ George J. Binczewski (1995). "The Point of a Monument: A History of the Aluminum Cap of the Washington Monument". JOM 47 (11): 20–25. 
  43. ^ "Cowles' Aluminium Alloys". The Manufacturer and Builder (New York: Western and Company, via Cornell University Library) 18 (1): 13. January 1886. Retrieved 2007-10-27.  and McMillan, Walter George (1891). A Treatise on Electro-Metallurgy. London, Philadelphia: Charles Griffin and Company, J.B. Lippincott Company, via Google Books scan of New York Public Library copy. pp. 302–305. Retrieved 2007-10-26.  and Sackett, William Edgar, John James Scannell and Mary Eleanor Watson (1917/1918). New Jersey's First Citizens. New Jersey: J.J. Scannell via Google Books scan of New York Public Library copy. pp. 103–105. Retrieved 2007-10-25. 
  44. ^ a b US400,664 (PDF version) (1889-04-02) Charles Martin Hall, Process of Reducing Aluminium from its Fluoride Salts by Electrolysis. 
  45. ^ Donald Holmes Wallace (1977) [1937]. Market Control in the Aluminum Industry. Harvard University Press via Ayer Publishing via Google Books limited view. p. 6. ISBN 0-4050-9786-7. Retrieved 2007-10-27. 
  46. ^ Aluminum prices.
  47. ^ "alumium", Oxford English Dictionary. Ed. J.A. Simpson and E.S.C. Weiner, second edition Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989. OED Online Oxford University Press. Accessed 29 October 2006. Citation is listed as "1808 SIR H. DAVY in Phil. Trans. XCVIII. 353". The ellipsis in the quotation is as it appears in the OED citation.
  48. ^ Davy, Humphry (1808). "Electro Chemical Researches, on the Decomposition of the Earths; with Observations on the Metals obtained from the alkaline Earths, and on the Amalgam procured from Ammonia". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London 98: 353. Retrieved 2009-12-10. 
  49. ^ Davy, Sir Humphry (1812). Elements of Chemical Philosophy. ISBN 0217889476. Retrieved 2009-12-10. 
  50. ^ "Elements of Chemical Philosophy By Sir Humphry Davy". Quarterly Review VIII: 72. 1812. ISBN 0217889476. Retrieved 2009-12-10. 
  51. ^ Michael Quinion (December 16, 2000). "ALUMINIUM VERSUS ALUMINUM: Why two spellings?". World Wide Words. , "In the USA, the position was more complicated. Noah Webster's Dictionary of 1828 has only aluminum, though the standard spelling among US chemists throughout most of the nineteenth century was aluminium; it was the preferred version in The Century Dictionary of 1889 and is the only spelling given in the Webster Unabridged Dictionary of 1913."
  52. ^ Peter Meiers. "Manufacture of Aluminum". The History of Fluorine, Fluoride and Fluoridation. 
  53. ^ [1]
  54. ^ Greenwood, Norman N.; Earnshaw, A. (1984), Chemistry of the Elements, Oxford: Pergamon, p. 243, ISBN 0-08-022057-6 
  55. ^ John Bremner, Words on Words: A Dictionary for Writers and Others Who Care about Words, pp. 22–23. ISBN 0-231-04493-3.
  56. ^ IUPAC Periodic Table of the Elements.
  57. ^ IUPAC Web site publication search for 'aluminum'.
  58. ^ Banks, W.A.; Kastin, AJ (1989). "Aluminum-induced neurotoxicity: alterations in membrane function at the blood-brain barrier". Neurosci Biobehav Rev 13 (1): 47–53. doi:10.1016/S0149-7634(89)80051-X. PMID 2671833. 
  59. ^ V. Abreo. "The Dangers of Aluminum Toxicity". Retrieved 2009-05-05. 
  60. ^ Slanina, P.; Frech, W; Ekström, LG; Lööf, L; Slorach, S; Cedergren, A (1 March 1986). "Dietary citric acid enhances absorption of aluminum in antacids". Clinical Chemistry (American Association for Clinical Chemistry) 32 (3): 539–541. PMID 3948402. Retrieved 2008-10-09. 
  61. ^ van Ginkel MF, van der Voet GB, D'Haese PC, De Broe ME, de Wolff FA, Effect of citric acid and maltol on the accumulation of aluminum in rat brain and bone, J Lab Clin Med. 1993 Mar;121: 453–60, PMID 8445293.
  62. ^ Metalloestrogens: an emerging class of inorganic xenoestrogens with potential to add to the oestrogenic burden of the human breast J Appl Toxicol. 2006 May-Jun;26(3):191–7.
  63. ^ H. J. Gitelman, "Physiology of Aluminum in Man", in Aluminum and Health, CRC Press, 1988, ISBN 0824780264.
  64. ^ Ferreira, PC; Piai Kde, A; Takayanagui, AM; Segura-Muñoz, SI (2008). "Aluminum as a risk factor for Alzheimer's disease". Revista latino-americana de enfermagem 16 (1): 151–7. PMID 18392545.  edit
  65. ^ Yokel RA, Hicks CL, Florence RL (June 2008). "Aluminum bioavailability from basic sodium aluminum phosphate, an approved food additive emulsifying agent, incorporated in cheese". Food and chemical toxicology 46 (6): 2261–6. doi:10.1016/j.fct.2008.03.004. PMID 18436363. PMC 2449821. 
  66. ^ Exley C, Charles LM, Barr L, Martin C, Polwart A, Darbre PD (September 2007). "Aluminium in human breast tissue". J. Inorg. Biochem. 101 (9): 1344–6. doi:10.1016/j.jinorgbio.2007.06.005. PMID 17629949. 
  67. ^ Ferreira PC, Piai Kde A, Takayanagui AM, Segura-Muñoz SI (2008). "Aluminum as a risk factor for Alzheimer's disease". Rev Lat Am Enfermagem 16 (1): 151–7. PMID 18392545. 
  68. ^
  69. ^ a b Aluminium and Alzheimer's disease, The Alzheimer's Society, accessed 30 January 2009.
  70. ^ Rondeau, V.; Jacqmin-Gadda, H.; Commenges, D.; Helmer, C.; Dartigues, F. (Feb 2009). "Aluminum and silica in drinking water and the risk of Alzheimer's disease or cognitive decline: findings from 15-year follow-up of the PAQUID cohort". American journal of epidemiology 169 (4): 489–496. doi:10.1093/aje/kwn348. ISSN 0002-9262. PMID 19064650.  edit
  71. ^ Yumoto, S.; Kakimi, S.; Ohsaki, A.; Ishikawa, A. (2009). "Demonstration of aluminum in amyloid fibers in the cores of senile plaques in the brains of patients with Alzheimer's disease". Journal of inorganic biochemistry 103 (11): 1579–1584. doi:10.1016/j.jinorgbio.2009.07.023. PMID 19744735.  edit
  72. ^ "Alzheimer's Disease and Aluminum". National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. October 2005. 
  73. ^ Michael Hopkin (21 April 2006). "Death of Alzheimer victim linked to aluminium pollution". news @ doi:10.1038/news060417-10. 
  74. ^ Andersson, Maud (1988). "Toxicity and tolerance of aluminium in vascular plants". Water, Air, & Soil Pollution 39 (3–4): 439–462. doi:10.1007/BF00279487 (inactive 2009-11-14). 
  75. ^ Horst, Walter J. (1995). "The role of the apoplast in aluminium toxicity and resistance of higher plants: A review". Zeitschrift für Pflanzenernährung und Bodenkunde 158 (5): 419–428. doi:10.1002/jpln.19951580503. 
  76. ^ Ma, Jian Feng; Ryan, PR; Delhaize, E (2001). "Aluminium tolerance in plants and the complexing role of organic acids". Trends in Plant Science 6 (6): 273–278. doi:10.1016/S1360-1385(01)01961-6. PMID 11378470. 
  77. ^ Turner, R.C. and Clark J.S. (1966). "Lime potential in acid clay and soil suspensions". Trans. Comm. II & IV Int. Soc. Soil Science: 208–215. 
  78. ^ corrected lime potential (formula)
  79. ^ R.C. Turner (1965). "A Study of the Lime Potential". Research Branch, Department Of Agriculture. 
  80. ^ Applying lime to soils reduces the Aluminum toxicity to plants. "One Hundred Harvests Research Branch Agriculture Canada 1886–1986". Historical series / Agriculture Canada - Série historique / Agriculture Canada. Government of Canada. Retrieved 2008-12-22.  Note this link loads slowly
  81. ^ J. V. Magalhaes (2004). "Comparative Mapping of a Major Aluminum Tolerance Gene in Sorghum and Other Species in the Poaceae". Genetics 167: 1905. doi:10.1534/genetics.103.023580. 

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

ALUMINIUM (symbol Al; atomic weight 27.0), a metallic chemical element. Although never met with in the free state, aluminium is very widely distributed in combination, principally as silicates. The word is derived from the Lat. alumen (see Alum), and is probably akin to the Gr. g As (the root of salt, halogen, &c.). In 1722 F. Hoffmann announced the base of alum to be an individual substance; L. B. Guyton de Morveau suggested that this base should be called alumine, after Sel alumineux, the French name for alum; and about 1820 the word was changed into alumina. In 1760 the French chemist, T. Baron de Henouville, unsuccessfully attempted "to reduce the base of alum" to a metal, and shortly afterwards various other investigators essayed the problem in vain. In 1808 Sir Humphry Davy, fresh from the electrolytic isolation of potassium and sodium, attempted to decompose alumina by heating it with potash in a platinum crucible and submitting the mixture to a current of electricity; in 1809, with a more powerful battery, he raised iron wire to a red heat in contact with alumina, and obtained distinct evidence of the production of an iron-aluminium alloy. Naming the new metal in anticipation of its actual birth, he called it alumium; but for the sake of analogy he was soon persuaded to change the word to aluminum, in which form, alternately with aluminium, it occurs in chemical literature for some thirty years.

Ammonium Alum.

Caesium Alum.

Potash Alum.

Rubidium Alum.


too parts water


t o C

Ioo parts water


t o C

Ioo parts water


t o C

100 parts water


















5 0





44' 11
















C. Setterberg

Chim. phys.

Ann. 1882, 211, p. 104.


C. Setterberg

[31 8, p. 467.

In the year 1824, endeavouring to prepare it by chemical means, H. C. Oersted heated its chloride with potassium amalgam, and failed in his object simply by reason of the mercury, so that when F. Wdhler repeated the experiment at Göttingen in 1827, employing potassium alone as the reducing agent, he obtained it in the metallic state for the first time. Contaminated as it was with potassium and with platinum from the crucible, the metal formed a grey powder and was far from pure; but in 1845 he improved his process and succeeded in producing metallic globules wherewith he examined its chief properties, and prepared several compounds hitherto unknown. Early in 1854, H. St Claire Deville, accidentally and in ignorance of Wohler's later results, imitated the 1845 experiment. At once observing the reduction of the chloride, he realized the importance of his discovery and immediately began to study the commercial production of the metal. His attention was at first divided between two processes - the chemical method of reducing the chloride with potassium, and an electrolytic method of decomposing it with a carbon anode and a platinum cathode, which was simultaneously imagined by himself and R. Bunsen. Both schemes appeared practically impossible; potassium cost about L 1 7 per lb, gave a very small yield and was dangerous to manipulate, while on the other hand, the only source of electric current then available was the primary battery, and zinc as a store of industrial energy was utterly out of the question. Deville accordingly returned to pure chemistry and invented a practicable method of preparing sodium which, having a lower atomic weight than potassium, reduced a larger proportion. He next devised a plan for manufacturing pure alumina from the natural ores, and finally elaborated a process and plant which held the field for almost thirty years. Only the discovery of dynamo-electric machines and their application to metallurgical processes rendered it possible for E. H. and A. H. Cowles to remove the industry from the hands of chemists, till the time when P. T. L. Heroult and C. M. Hall, by devising the electrolytic method now in use, inaugurated the present era of industrial electrolysis.

The chief natural compounds of aluminium are four in number: oxide, hydroxide (hydrated oxide), silicate and fluoride. Corun-. dum, the only important native oxide (Al 2 0 3), occurs Ores in large deposits in southern India and the United States. Although it contains a higher percentage of metal (5 2.9%) than any other natural compound, it is not at present employed as an ore, not only because it is so hard as to be crushed with difficulty, but also because its very hardness makes it valuable as an abrasive. Cryolite (A1F 3.5NaF) is a double fluoride of aluminium and sodium, which is scarcely known except on the west coast of Greenland. Formerly it was used for the preparation of the metal, but the inaccessibility of its source, and the fact that it is not sufficiently pure to be employed without some preliminary treatment, caused it to be abandoned in favour of other salts. When required in the Heroult-Hall process as a solvent, it is sometimes made artificially. Aluminium silicate is the chemical body of which all clays are nominally composed. Kaolin or China clay is essentially a pure disilicate (Al 2 O 3.2SiO 2.2H 2 O), occurring in large beds almost throughout the world, and containing in its anhydrous state 2 4.4% of the metal, which, however, in common clays is more or less replaced by calcium, magnesium, and the alkalis, the proportion of silica sometimes reaching 70%. Kaolin thus seems to be the best ore, and it would undoubtedly be used were it not for the fatal objection that no satisfactory process has yet been discovered for preparing pure alumina from any mineral silicate. If, according to the present method of winning the metal, a bath containing silica as well as alumina is submitted to electrolysis, both oxides are dissociated, and as silicon is a very undesirable impurity, an alumina contaminated with silica is not suited for reduction. Bauxite is a hydrated oxide of aluminium of the ideal composition, Al 2 0 3.2H 2 0. It is a somewhat widely distributed mineral, being met with in Styria, Austria, Hesse, French Guiana, India and Italy; but the most important beds are in the south of France, the north of Ireland, and in Alabama, Georgia and Arkansas in North America. The chief Irish deposits are in the neighbourhood of Glenravel, Co. Antrim, and have the advantage of being near the coast, so that the alumina can be transported by water-carriage. After being dried at loo° C., Antrim bauxite contains from 33 to 60% of alumina, from 2 to 30% of ferric oxide, and from 7 to 24% of silica, the balance being titanic acid and water of combination. The American bauxites contain from 38 to 67% of alumina, from 1 to 23% of ferric oxide, and from 1 to 32% of silica. The French bauxites are of fairly constant composition, containing usually from 58 to 70% of alumina, 3 to 15% of foreign matter, and 27% made up of silica, iron oxide and water in proportions that vary with the colour and the situation of the beds.

Before the application of electricity, only two compounds were found suitable for reduction to the metallic state. Alumina itself is so refractory that it cannot be melted save by the oxyhydrogen blowpipe or the electric arc, and except in the molten state it is not susceptible of decomposition by any chemical reagent. Deville first selected the chloride as his raw material, but observing it to be volatile and extremely deliquescent, he soon substituted in its place a double chloride of aluminium and sodium. Early in 1855 John Percy suggested that cryolite should be more convenient, as it was a natural mineral and might not require purification, and at the end of March in that year, Faraday exhibited before the Royal Institution samples of the metal reduced from its fluoride by Dick and Smith. H. Rose also carried out experiments on the decomposition of cryolite, and expressed an opinion that it was the best of all compounds for reduction; but, finding the yield of metal to be low, receiving a report of the difficulties experienced in mining the ore, and fearing to cripple his new industry by basing it upon the employment of a mineral of such uncertain supply, Deville decided to keep to his chlorides. With the advent of the dynamo, the position of affairs was wholly changed. The first successful idea of using electricity depended on the enormous heating powers of the arc. The infusibility of alumina was no longer prohibitive, for the molten oxide is easily reduced by carbon. Nevertheless, it was found impracticable to smelt alumina electrically except in presence of copper, so that the Cowles furnace yielded, not the pure metal, but an alloy. So long as the metal was principally regarded as a necessary ingredient of aluminium-bronze, the Cowles process was popular, but when the advantages of aluminium itself became more apparent, there arose a fresh demand for some chief method of obtaining it unalloyed. It was soon discovered that the faculty of inducing dissociation possessed by the current might now be utilized with some hope of pecuniary success, but as electrolytic currents are of lower voltage than those required in electric furnaces, molten alumina again became impossible. Many metals, of which copper, silver and nickel are types, can be readily won or purified by the electrolysis of aqueous solutions, and theoretically it may be feasible to treat aluminium in an identical manner. In practice, however, it cannot be thrown down electrolytically with a dissimilar anode so as to win the metal, and certain difficulties are still met with in the analogous operation of plating by means of a similar anode. Of the simple compounds, only the fluoride is amenable to electrolysis in the fused state, since the chloride begins to volatilize below its melting-point, and the latter is only 5° below its boiling-point. Cryolite is not a safe body to electrolyse, because the minimum voltage needed to break up the aluminium fluoride is 4.0, whereas the sodium fluoride requires only 4.7 volts; if, therefore, the current rises in tension, the alkali is reduced, and the final product consists of an alloy with sodium. The corresponding double chloride is a far better material; first, because it melts at about 180° C., and does not volatilize below a red heat, and second, because the voltage of aluminium chloride is 2.3 and that of sodium chloride 4.3, so that there is a much wider margin of safety to cover irregularities in the electric pressure. It has been found, however, that molten cryolite and the analogous double fluoride represented by the formula Al 2 F 6.2NaF are very efficient solvents of alumina, and that these solutions can be easily electrolysed at about 800° C. by means of a current that completely decomposes the oxide but leaves the haloid salts unaffected. Molten cryolite dissolves roughly 30% of its weight of pure alumina, so that when ready for treatment the solution contains about the same proportion of what may be termed "available" aluminium as does the fused double chloride of aluminium and sodium. The advantages lie with the oxide because of its easier preparation. Alumina dissolves readily enough in aqueous hydrochloric acid to yield a solution of the chloride, but neither this solution, nor that containing sodium chloride, can be evaporated to dryness without decomposition. To obtain the anhydrous single or double chloride, alumina must be ignited with carbon in a current of chlorine, and to exclude iron from the finished metal, either the alumina must be pure or the chloride be submitted to purification. This preparation of a chlorine compound suited for electrolysis becomes more costly and more troublesome than that of the oxide, and in addition four times as much raw material must be handled.

At different times propositions have been made to win the metal from its sulphide. This compound possesses a heat of formation so much lower that electrically it needs but a voltage of 0.9 to decomplose it, and it is easily soluble in the fused sulphides of the alkali metals. It can also be reduced metallurgically by the action of molten iron. Various considerations, however, tend to show that there cannot be so much advantage in employing it as would appear at first sight. As it is easier to reduce than any other compound, so it is more difficult to produce. Therefore while less energy is absorbed in its final reduction, more is needed in its initial preparation, and it is questionable whether the economy possible in the second stage would not be neutralized by the greater cost of the first stage in the whole operation of winning the metal from bauxite with the sulphide as the intermediary.

The Deville process as gradually elaborated between 1855 and 1859 exhibited three distinct phases: - Production of metallic sodium, formation of the pure double chloride of sodium and aluminium,and preparation of the metal by the inter action of the two former substances. To produce the alkali metal, a calcined mixture of sodium carbonate, coal and chalk was strongly ignited in flat retorts made of boiler-plate; the sodium distilled over into condensers and was preserved under heavy petroleum. In order to prepare pure alumina, bauxite and sodium carbonate were heated in a furnace until the reaction was complete; the product was then extracted with water to dissolve the sodium aluminate, the solution treated with carbon dioxide, and the precipitate removed and dried. This purified oxide, mixed with sodium chloride and coal tar, was carbonized at a red heat, and ignited in a current of dry chlorine as long as vapours of the double chloride were given off, these being condensed in suitable chambers. For the production of the final aluminium, ioo parts of the chloride and 45 parts of cryolite to serve as a flux were powdered together and mixed with 35 parts of sodium cut into small pieces. The whole was thrown in several portions on to the hearth of a furnace previously heated to low redness and was stirred at intervals for three hours. At length when the furnace was tapped a white slag was drawn off from the top, and the liquid metal beneath was received into a ladle and poured into cast-iron moulds. The process was worked out by Deville in his laboratory at the Ecole Normale in Paris. Early in 1855 he conducted large-scale experiments at Javel in a factory lent him for the purpose, where he produced sufficient to show at the French Exhibition of 1855. In the spring of 1856 a complete plant was erected at La Glaciere, a suburb of Paris, but becoming a nuisance to the neighbours, it was removed to Nanterre in the following year. Later it was again transferred to Salindres, where the manufacture was continued by Messrs. Pechiney till the advent of the present electrolytic process rendered it no longer profitable.

When Deville quitted the Javel works, two brothers C. and A. Tissier, formerly his assistants, who had devised an improved sodium furnace and had acquired a thorough knowledge of their leader's experiments, also left, and erected a factory at Amfreville, near Rouen, to work the cryolite process. It consisted simply in reducing cryolite with metallic sodium exactly as in Deville's chloride method, and it was claimed to possess various mythical advantages over its rival. Two grave disadvantages were soon obvious - the limited supply of ore, and, what was even more serious, the large proportion of silicon in the reduced metal. The Amfreville works existed some eight or ten years, but achieved no permanent prosperity. In 1858 or 1859 a small factory, the first in England, was built by F. W. Gerhard at Battersea, who also employed cryolite, made his own sodium, and was able to sell the product at 3s. 9d. per oz. This enterprise only lasted about four years. Between 1860 and 1874 Messrs Bell Brothers manufactured the metal at Washington, near Newcastle, under Deville's supervision, producing nearly 2 cwt. per year. They took part in the International Exhibition of 1862, quoting a price of 40s. per lb troy.

In 1881 J. Webster patented an improved process for making alumina, and the following year he organized the Aluminium Crown Metal Co. of Hollywood to exploit it in conjunction with Deville's method of reduction. Potash-alum and pitch were calcined together, and the mass was treated with hydrochloric acid; charcoal and water to form a paste were next added, and the whole was dried and ignited in a current of air and steam. The residue, consisting of alumina and potassium sulphate, was leached with water to separate the insoluble matter which was dried as usual. All the by-products, potassium sulphate, sulphur and aluminate of iron, were capable of recovery, and were claimed to reduce the cost of the oxide materially. From this alumina the double chloride was prepared in essentially the same manner as practised at Salindres, but sundry economies accrued in the process, owing to the larger scale of working and to the adoption of W. Weldon's method of regenerating the spent chlorine liquors. In 1886 H. Y. Castner's sodium patents appeared, and The Aluminium Co. of Oldbury was promoted to combine the advantages of Webster's alumina and Castner's sodium. Castner had long been interested in aluminium, and was desirous of lowering its price. Seeing that sodium was the only possible reducing agent, he set himself to cheapen its cost, and deliberately rejecting sodium carbonate for the more expensive sodium hydroxide (caustic soda), and replacing carbon by a mixture of iron and carbon - the so-called carbide of iron - he invented the highly scientific method of winning the alkali metal which has remained in existence almost to the present day. In 187 2 sodium prepared by Deville's process cost about 4s. per lb, the greater part of the expense being due to the constant failure of the retorts; in 1887 Castner's sodium cost less than is. per lb, for his cast-iron pots survived 125 distillations.

In the same year L. Grabau patented a method of reducing the simple fluoride of aluminium with sodium, and his process was operated at Trotha in Germany. It was distinguished by the unusual purity of the metal obtained, some of his samples containing 99.5 to 99.8%. In 1888 the Alliance Aluminium Co., organized to work certain patents for winning the metal from cryolite by means of sodium, erected plant in London, Hebburn and Wallsend, and by 1889 were selling the metal at 11s. to 15s. per lb. The Aluminium Company's price in 1888 was 20S. per lb and the output about 250 lb per day. In 1889 the price was 16s., but by 1891 the electricians commenced to offer metal at 4s. per lb, and aluminium reduced with sodium became a thing of the past.

About 1879 dynamos began to be introduced into metallurgical practice, and from that date onwards numerous schemes for utilizing this cheaper source of energy were brought before theublic. The first electrical method worthy lectrical P y reduction. of notice is that patented by E. H. and A. H. Cowles in 1885, which was worked both at Lockport, New York, U.S.A., and at Milton, Staffordshire. The furnace consisted of a flat, rectangular, firebrick box, packed with a layer of finely-powdered charcoal 2 in. thick. Through stuffing-boxes at the ends passed the two electrodes, made after the fashion of arc-light carbons, and capable of being approached together according to the requirements of the operation. The central space of the furnace was filled with a mixture of corundum, coarsely-powdered charcoal and copper; and an iron lid lined with firebrick was luted in its place to exclude air. The charge was reduced by means of a 50-volt current from a Soo-kilowatt dynamo, which was passed through the furnace for 12 hours till decomposition was complete. About ioo lb of bronze, containing from 15 to 20 lb of aluminium, were obtained from each run, the yield of the alloy being reported at about 1 lb per 18 e.h.p.-hours. The composition of the alloys thus produced could not be predetermined with exactitude; each batch was therefore analysed, a number of them were bulked together or mixed with copper in I. 49 the necessary proportion, and melted in crucibles to give merchantable bronzes containing between 14 and 10% of aluminium. Although the copper took no part in the reaction, its employment was found indispensable, as otherwise the aluminium partly volatilized, and partly combined with the carbon to form a carbide. It was also necessary to give the fine charcoal a thin coating of calcium oxide by soaking it in lime-water, for the temperature was so high that unless it was thus protected it was gradually converted into graphite, losing its insulating power and diffusing the current through the lining and walls of the furnace. That this process did not depend upon electrolysis, but was simply an instance of electrical smelting or the decomposition of an oxide by means of carbon at the temperature of the electric arc, is shown by the fact that the Cowles furnace would work with an alternating current.

In 1883 R. Cratzel patented a useless electrolytic process with fused cryolite or the double chloride as the raw material, and in 1886 Dr E. Kleiner propounded a cryolite method which was worked for a time by the Aluminium Syndicate at Tyldesley near Manchester, but was abandoned in 1890. In 1887 A. Minet took out patents for electrolysing a mixture of sodium chloride with aluminium fluoride, or with natural or artificial cryolite. The operation was continuous, the metal being regularly run off from the bottom of the bath, while fresh alumina and flouride were added as required. The process exhibited several disadvantages, the electrolyte had to be kept constant in composition lest either fluorine vapours should be evolved or sodium thrown down, and the raw materials had accordingly to be prepared in a pure state. After prolonged experiments in a factory owned by Messrs Bernard Freres at St Michel in Savoy, Minet's process was given up, and at the close of the 19th century the Heroult-Hall method was alone being employed in the manufacture of aluminium throughout the world.

The original Deville process for obtaining pure alumina from bauxite was greatly simplified in 1889 by K. T. Bayer, whose improved process is exploited at Larne in Ireland and at Gardanne in France. New works on the same process have recently been erected near Marseilles. Crude bauxite is ground, lightly calcined to destroy organic matter, and agitated under a pressure of 70 or 80 lb per sq. in. with a solution of sodium hydroxide having the specific gravity 1� 4 5. After two or three hours the liquid is diluted till its density falls to 1.23, when it is passed through filter-presses to remove the insoluble ferric oxide and silica. The solution of sodium aluminate, containing aluminium oxide and sodium oxide in the molecular proportion of 6 to 1, is next agitated for thirty-six hours with a small quantity of hydrated alumina previously obtained, which causes the liquor to decompose, and some 70% of the aluminium hydroxide to be thrown down. The filtrate, now containing roughly two molecules of alumina to one of soda, is concentrated to the original gravity of 1.45, and employed instead of fresh caustic for the attack of more bauxite; the precipitate is then collected, washed till free from soda, dried and ignited at about looo C. to convert it into a crystalline oxide which is less hygroscopic than the former amorphous variety.

The process of manufacture which now remains to be described was patented during 1886 and 1887 in the name of C. M. Hall in America, in that of P. T. L. Heroult in England and France. It would be idle to discuss to whom the credit of first imagining the method rightfully belongs, for probably this is only one of the many occasions when new ideas have been born in several brains at the same time. By 1888 Hall was at work on a commercial scale at Pittsburg, reducing German alumina; in 1891 the plant was removed to New Kensington for economy in fuel, and was gradually enlarged to 150o h.p.; in 1894 a factory driven by water was erected at Niagara Falls, and subsequently works were established at Shawenegan in Canada and at Massena in the United States. In 1890 also the Hall process operated by steam power was installed at Patricroft, Lancashire, where the plant had a capacity of 300 lb per day, but by 1894 the turbines of the Swiss and French works ruined the enterprise. About 1897 the Bernard factory at St Michel passed into the hands of Messrs Pechiney, the machinery soon being increased, and there, under the control of a firm that has been concerned in the industry almost from its inception, aluminium is being manufactured by the Hall process on a large scale. In July 1888 the Societe Metallurgique Suisse erected plant driven by a 500 h.p. turbine to carry out Heroult's alloy process, and at the end of that year the Allgemeine Elektricitais Gesellschaft united with the Swiss firm in organizing the Aluminium Industrie Actien Gesellschaft of Neuhasen, which has factories in Switzerland, Germany and Austria. The Societe Electrometallurgique Francaise, started under the direction of Heroult in 1888 for the production of aluminium in France, began operations on a small scale at Froges in Isere; but soon after large works were erected in Savoy at La Praz, near Modane, and in 1905 another large factory was started in Savoy at St Michel. In 1895 the British Aluminium Company was founded to mine bauxite and manufacture alumina in Ireland, to prepare the necessary electrodes at Greenock, to reduce the aluminium by the aid of water-power at the Falls of Foyers, and to refine and work up the metal into marketable shapes at the old Milton factory of the Cowles Syndicate, remodelled to suit modern requirements. In 1905 this company began works for the utilization of another water-power at Loch Leven.

In 1907 a new company, The Aluminium Corporation, was started in England to carry out the production of the metal by the Heroult process, and new factories were constructed near Conway in North Wales and at Wallsend-on-Tyne, quite close to where, twenty years before, the Alliance Aluminium Co. had their works.

The Heroult cell consists of a square iron or steel box lined with carbon rammed and baked into a solid mass; at the bottom is a cast-iron plate connected with the negative pole of the dynamo, but the actual working cathode is undoubtedly the layer of already reduced and molten metal that lies in the bath. The anode is formed of a bundle of carbon rods suspended from overhead so as to be capable of vertical adjustment. The cell is filled up with cryolite, and the current is turned on till this is melted; then the pure powdered alumina is fed in continuously as long as the operation proceeds. The current is supplied at a tension of 3 to 5 volts per cell, passing through 10 or 12 in series; and it performs two distinct functions: - (1) it overcomes the chemical affinity of the aluminium oxide, (2) it overcomes the resistance of the electrolyte, heating the liquid at the same time. As a part of the voltage is consumed in the latter duty, only the residue can be converted into chemical work, and as the theoretical voltage of the aluminium fluoride in the cryolite is 4.0, provided the bath is kept properly supplied with alumina, the fluorides are not attacked. It follows, therefore, except for mechanical losses, that one charge of cryolite lasts indefinitely, that the sodium and other impurities in it are not liable to contaminate the product, and that only the alumina itself need be carefully purified. The operation is essentially a dissociation of alumina into aluminium, which collects at the cathode, and into oxygen, which combines with the anodes to form carbon monoxide, the latter escaping and being burnt to carbon dioxide outside. Theoretically 36 parts by weight of carbon are oxidized in the production of 54 parts of aluminium; practically the anodes waste at the same rate at which metal is deposited. The current density is about 700 amperes per sq. ft. of cathode surface, and the number of rods in the anode is such that each delivers 6 or 7 amperes per sq. in. of cross-sectional area. The working temperature lies between 750° and 850° C., and the actual yield is i lb of metal per i 2 e.h.p. hours. The bath is heated internally with the current rather than by means of external fuel, because this arrangement permits the vessel itself to be kept comparatively cool; if it were fired from without, it would be hotter than the electrolyte, and no material suitable for the construction of the cell is competent to withstand the attack of nascent aluminium at high temperatures. Aluminium is so light that it is a matter requiring some ingenuity to select a convenient solvent through which it shall sink quickly, for if it does not sink, it short-circuits the electrolyte. The molten metal has a specific gravity of 2 � S4, that of molten cryolite saturated with alumina is 2.3 5, and that of the fluoride Al 2 F 6 2NaF saturated with alumina 1.97. The latter therefore appears the better material, and was originally preferred by Hall; cryolite, however, dissolves more alumina, and has been finally adopted by both inventors.

E lastic Limit,




tons per sq. in.

g th, tons

per sq. in.

of Area %

Cast.. .




Sheet .




Bars.. .




Wire.. .




Aluminium is a white metal with a characteristic tint which most nearly resembles that of tin; when impure, or after pro longed exposure to air, it has a slight violet shade. Its atomic weight is 27 (26.77, H=I, according to J. Thomsen). It is trivalent. The specific gravity of cast metal is 2.583, and of rolled 2.688 at 4° C. It melts at 626° C. (freezingpoint 654.5 Heycock and Neville). It is the third most malleable and sixth most ductile metal, yielding sheets 0.000025 in. in thickness, and wires 0.004 in. in diameter. When quite pure it is somewhat harder than tin, and its hardness is considerably increased by rolling. It is not magnetic. It stands near the positive end of the list of elements arranged in electromotive series, being exceeded only by the alkalis and metals of the alkaline earths; it therefore combines eagerly, under suitable conditions, with oxygen and chlorine. Its coefficient of linear expansion by heat is 0.0000222 (Richards) or 0.0000231 (RobertsAusten) per 1° C. Its mean specific heat between o° and ioo° is 0.227, and its latent heat of fusion loo calories (Richards). Only silver, copper and gold surpass it as conductors of heat, its value being 31.33 (Ag=10o, Roberts-Austen). Its electrical conductivity, determined on 99.6% metal, is 60.5% that of copper for equal volumes, or double that of copper for equal weights, and when chemically pure it exhibits a somewhat higher relative efficiency. The average strength of 98% metal is approximately shown by the following table: - Weight for weight, therefore, aluminium is only exceeded in tensile strength by the best cast steel, and its own alloy, aluminium bronze. An absolutely clean surface becomes tarnished in damp air, an almost invisible coating of oxide being produced, just as happens with zinc; but this film is very permanent and prevents further attack. Exposure to air and rain also causes slight corrosion, but to nothing like the same extent as occurs with iron, copper or brass. Commercial electrolytic aluminium of the best quality contains as the average of a large number of tests, 0.48% of silicon and 0.46% of iron, the residue being essentially aluminium itself. The metal in mass is not affected by hot or cold water, the foil is very slowly oxidized, while the amalgam decomposes rapidly. Sulphuretted hydrogen having no action upon it, articles made of it are not blackened in foggy weather or in rooms where crude coal gas is burnt. To inorganic acids, except hydrochloric, it is highly resistant, ranking well with tin in this respect; but alkalis dissolve it quickly. Organic acids such as vinegar, common salt, the natural ingredients of food, and the various extraneous substances used as food preservatives, alone or mixed together, dissolve traces of it if boiled for any length of time in a chemicallyclean vessel; but when aluminium utensils are submitted to the ordinary routine of the kitchen, being used to heat or cook milk, coffee, vegetables, meat and even fruit, and are also cleaned frequently in the usual fashion, no appreciable quantity of metal passes into the food. Moreover, did it do so, the action upon the human system would be infinitely less harmful than similar doses of copper or of lead.

The highly electro-positive character of aluminium is most important. At elevated temperatures the metal decomposes nearly all other metallic oxides, wherefore it is most serviceable as a metallurgical reagent. In the casting of iron, steel and brass, the addition of a trifling proportion (0.005%) removes oxide and renders the molten metal more fluid, causing the finished products to be more homogeneous, free from blow-holes and solid all through. On the other hand, its electro-positive nature necessitates some care in its utilization. If it be exposed to damp, to sea-water or to corrosive influences of any kind in contact with another metal, or if it be mixed with another metal so as to form an alloy which is not a true chemical compound, the other metal being highly negative to it, powerful galvanic action will be set up and the structure will quickly deteriorate. This explains the failure of boats built of commercially pure aluminium which have been put together with iron or copper rivets, and the decay of other boats built of a light alloy, in which the alloying metal (copper) has been injudiciously chosen. It also explains why aluminium is so difficult to join with lowtemperature solders, for these mostly contain a large proportion of lead. This disadvantage, however, is often overestimated since in most cases other means of uniting two pieces are available.

The metal produces an enormous number of useful alloys, some of which, containing only i or 2% of other metals, combine the lightness of aluminium itself with far greater hardness and strength. Some with 90 to 99% of other metals exhibit the general properties of those metals conspicuously improved. Among the heavy alloys, the aluminium bronzes (Cu, 9 o -97.5%; Al, 10-2.5%) occupy the most important position, showing mean tensile strengths increasing from 20 to 41 tons per sq. in. as the percentage of aluminium rises, and all strongly resisting corrosion in air or sea-water. The light copper alloys, in which the proportions just given are practically reversed, are of considerably less utility, for although they are fairly strong, they lack power to resist galvanic action. This subject is far from being exhausted, and it is not improbable that the alloy-producing capacity of aluminium may eventually prove its most valuable characteristic. In the meantime, ternary light alloys appear the most satisfactory, and tungsten and copper, or tungsten and nickel, seem to be the best substances to add.

The uses of aluminium are too numerous to mention. Probably the widest field is still in the purification of iron and steel. To the general public it appeals most strongly as a material for constructing cooking utensils. It is not brittle like porcelain and cast iron, not poisonous like lead-glazed earthenware and untinned copper, needs no enamel to chip off, does not rust and wear out like cheap tin-plate, and weighs but a fraction of other substances. It is largely replacing brass and copper in all departments of industry - especially where dead weight has to be moved about, and lightness is synonymous with economy - for instance, in bed-plates for torpedo-boat engines, internal fittings for ships instead of wood, complete boats for portage, motor-car parts and boiling-pans for confectionery and in chemical works. The British Admiralty employ it to save weight in the Navy, and the war-offices of the European powers equip their soldiers with it wherever possible. As a substitute for Solenhofen stone it is used in a modified form of lithography, which can be performed on rotary printingmachines at a high speed. With the increasing price of copper, it is coming into vogue as an electrical conductor for uncovered mains; it is found that an aluminium wire 0.126 in. in diameter will carry as much current as a copper wire o� loo in. in diameter, while the former weighs about 79 lb and the latter 162 lb per mile. Assuming the materials to be of equal tensile strength per unit of area - hard-drawn copper is stronger, but has a lower conductivity - the adoption of aluminium thus leads to a reduction of 52% in the weight, a gain of 60% in the strength, and an increase of 26% in the diameter of the conductor. Bare aluminium strip has recently been tried for winding-coils in electrical machines, the oxide of the metal acting as insulators between the layers. When the price of aluminium is less than double the price of copper aluminium is cheaper than copper per unit of electric current conveyed; but when insulation is necessary, the smaller size of the copper wire renders it more economical. Aluminium conductors have been employed on heavy work in many places, and for telegraphy and telephony they are in frequent demand and give perfect satisfaction. Difficulties were at first encountered in making the necessary joints, but these have been overcome by practice and experience.

Two points connected with this metal are of sufficient moment to demand a few words by way of conclusion. Its extraordinary lightness forms its chief claim to general adoption, yet is apt to cause mistakes when its price is mentioned. It is the weight of a mass of metal which governs its financial value; its industrial value, in the vast majority of cases, depends on the volume of that mass. Provided it be rigid, the bed-plate of an engine is no better for weighing 30 cwt. than for weighing 10 cwt. A saucepan is required to have a certain diameter and a certain depth in order that it may hold a certain bulk of liquid: its weight is merely an encumbrance. Copper being 31 times as heavy as aluminium, whenever the latter costs less than 3 3 times as much as copper it is actually cheaper. It must be remembered, too, that electrolytic aluminium only became known during the last decade of the 19th century. Samples dating from the old sodium days are still in existence, and when they exhibit unpleasant properties the defect is often ascribed to the metal instead of to the process by which it was won. Much has yet to be learnt about the practical qualities of the electrolytic product, and although every day's experience serves to place the metal in a firmer industrial position, a final verdict can only be passed after the lapse of time. The individual and collective influence of the several impurities which occur in the product of the Heroult cell is still to seek, and the importance of this inquiry will be seen when we consider that if cast iron, wrought iron and steel, the three totally distinct metals included in the generic name of "iron" - which are only distinguished one from another chemically by minute differences in the proportion of certain non-metallic ingredients - had only been in use for a comparatively few years, attempts might occasionally be made to forge cast iron, or to employ wrought iron in the manufacture of edge-tools. (E. J. R.) Compounds of Aluminium. Aluminium oxide or alumina, Al 2 0 3, occurs in nature as the mineral corundum, notable for its hardness and abrasive power (see Emery), and in well-crystallized forms it constitutes, when coloured by various metallic oxides, the gem-stones, sapphire, oriental topaz, oriental amethyst and oriental emerald. Alumina is obtained as a white amorphous powder by heating aluminium hydroxide. This powder, provided that it has not been too' strongly ignited, is soluble in strong acids; by ignition it becomes denser and nearly as hard as corundum; it fuses in the oxyhydrogen flame or electric arc, and on cooling it assumes a crystalline form closely resembling the mineral species. Crystallized alumina is also obtained by heating the fluoride with boron trioxide; by fusing aluminium phosphate with sodium sulphate; by heating alumina to a dull redness in hydrochloric acid gas under pressure; and by heating alumina with lead oxide to a bright red heat. These reactions are of special interest, for they culminate in the production of artificial ruby and sapphire (see Gems, Artificial).

Aluminium Hydrates

Several hydrated forms of aluminium oxide are known. Of these hydrargillite or gibbsite, Al(OH)3, diaspore, A10(OH), and bauxite, Al 2 0(OH) 4, occur in the mineral kingdom. Aluminium hydrate, Al(OH) 3, is obtained as a gelatinous white precipitate, soluble in potassium or sodium hydrate, but insoluble in ammonium chloride, by adding ammonia to a cold solution of an aluminium salt; from boiling solutions the precipitate is opaque. By drying at ordinary temperatures, the hydrate Al(OH) 3 �H 2 0 is obtained; at 300° this yields A10(OH), which on ignition gives alumina, Al 2 O 3. Precipitated aluminium hydrate finds considerable application in dyeing. Soluble modifications were obtained by Walter Crum (Journ. Chem. Soc., 1854, vi. 216), and Thomas Graham (Phil. Trans., 1861, p. 163); the first named decomposing aluminium acetate (from lead acetate and aluminium sulphate) with boiling water, the latter dialysing a solution of the basic chloride (obtained by dissolving the hydroxide in a solution of the normal chloride).

Both these soluble hydrates are readily coagulated by traces of a salt, acid or alkali; Crum's hydrate does not combine with dye-stuffs, neither is it soluble in excess of acid, while Graham's compound readily forms lakes, and readily dissolves when coagulated in acids.

In addition to behaving as a basic oxide, aluminium oxide (or hydrate) behaves as an acid oxide towards the strong bases with the formation of aluminates. Potassium aluminate, K 2 Al 2 0 4, is obtained in solution by dissolving aluminium hydrate in caustic potash; it is also obtained, as crystals containing three molecules of water, by fusing alumina with potash, exhausting with water, and crystallizing the solution in vacuo. Sodium aluminate is obtained in the manufacture of alumina; it is used as a mordant in dyeing, and has other commercial applications. Other aluminates (in particular, of iron and magnesium), are of frequent occurrence in the mineral kingdom, e.g. spinel, gahnite, &c.

Salts of Aluminium

Aluminium forms one series of salts, derived from the trioxide, Al 2 0 3. These exhibit, in certain cases, marked crystallographical and other analogies with the corresponding salts of chromium and ferric iron.

Aluminium fluoride, AlF 3, obtained by dissolving the metal in hydrofluoric acid, and subliming the residue in a current of hydrogen, forms transparent, very obtuse rhombohedra, which are insoluble in water. It forms a series of double fluorides, the most important of which is cryolite; this mineral has been applied to the commercial preparation of the metal (see above). Aluminium chloride, AlC1 3, was first prepared by Oersted, who heated a mixture of carbon and alumina in a current of chlorine, a method subsequently improved by Wohler, Bunsen, Deville and others. A purer product is obtained by heating aluminium turnings in a current of dry chlorine, when the chloride distils over. So obtained, it is a white crystalline solid, which slowly sublimes just below its melting point 094 0). Its vapour density at temperatures above 750 corresponds to the formula AlCl 3 j below this point the molecules are associated. It is very hygroscopic, absorbing water with the evolution of hydrochloric acid. It combines with ammonia to form AlC13.3NH3; and forms double compounds with phosphorus pentachloride, phosphorus oxychloride, selenium and tellurium chlorides, as well as with many metallic chlorides; sodium aluminium chloride, AlC1 3 �NaC1, is used in the production of the metal. As a synthetical agent in organic chemistry, aluminium chloride has rendered possible more reactions than any other substance; here we can only mention the classic syntheses of benzene homologues. Aluminium bromide, AlBr 3, is prepared in the same manner as the chloride. It forms colourless crystals, melting at 90°, and boiling at 265°-270°. Aluminium iodide, AlI 3, results from the interaction of iodine and aluminium. It forms colourless crystals, melting at 185°, and boiling at 360°. Aluminium sulphide, Al2S3, results from the direct union of the metal with sulphur, or when carbon disulphide vapour is passed over strongly heated alumina. It forms a yellow fusible mass, which is decomposed by water into alumina and sulphuretted hydrogen. Aluminium sulphate Al(S04)3, occurs in the mineral kingdom as keramohalite, Al 2 (SO 4) 3.1811 2 0, found near volcanoes and in alum-shale; aluminite or websterite is a basic salt, Al 2 (SO 4) (OH)4.71120. Aluminium sulphate, known commercially as "concentrated alum" or "sulphate of alumina," is manufactured from kaolin or china clay, which, after roasting (in order to oxidize any iron present), is heated with sulphuric acid, the clear solution run off, and evaporated. "Alum cake" is an impure product. Aluminium sulphate crystallizes as Al 2 (SO 4) 3.181120 in tablets belonging to the monoclinic system. It has a sweet astringent taste, very soluble in water, but scarcely soluble in alcohol. On heating, the crystals lose water, swell up, and give the anhydrous sulphate, which, on further heating, gives alumina. It forms double salts with the sulphates of the metals of the alkalis, known as the alums (see Alum).

Aluminium nitride (A1N) is obtained as small yellow crystals when aluminium is strongly heated in nitrogen. The nitrate, Al(N03)3, is obtained as deliquescent crystals (with 81120) by evaporating a solution of the hydroxide in nitric acid. Aluminium phosphates may be prepared by precipitating a soluble aluminium salt with sodium phosphate. Wavellite Al8(P04)3(OH)15.9H20, is a naturally occurring basic phosphate, while the gem-stone turquoise is Al (P04) (OH)3�H20, coloured by traces of copper. Aluminium silicates are widely diffused in the mineral kingdom, being present in the commonest rock-forming minerals (felspars, &c.), and in the gem-stones, topaz, beryl, garnet, &c. It also constitutes with sodium silicate the mineral lapis-lazuli and the pigment ultramarine. Forming the basis of all clays, aluminium silicates play a prominent part in the manufacture of pottery and porcelain.


The metallurgy and uses of aluminium are treated in detail in P. Moissonnier, L' Aluminium (Paris, 1903); in J. W. Richards, Aluminium (1896); and in A. Minet, Production of Aluminium, Eng. trans. by L. Waldo (1905); reference may also be made to treatises on general metallurgy, e.g. C. Schnabel, Handbook of Metallurgy, vol. ii. (1907). For the chemistry see Roscoe and Schlorlemmer, Treatise on Inorganic Chemistry, vol. ii. (1908); H. Moissan, Traite de chimie minerale; Abegg, Handbuch der anorganischen Chemie; and O. Dammer, Handbuch der anorganischen Chemie. Aluminium alloys have been studied in detail by Guillet.

<< Alum

Alunite >>


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also aluminium, and alumínium




  • IPA: /ʔaluˈmiːni̯ʊm/


Aluminium n

  1. (chemistry) chemical element aluminium (atomic number 13)

See also

Related terms

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address