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INTRODUCTION TO ALUMINIUM AND ITS PROPERTIES

V.Ryan © 2019

 
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Aluminium is one of the most common non-ferrous metals and it is used for a range of practical applications. These include, utilisation in the aerospace industry, food and drink packaging / storage, kitchen wear, electronics, construction, automotive industry, shipping and many more, too numerous to list. When in use, aluminium is normally ‘alloyed’ (combined with other metals / compounds), in order to enhance its mechanical properties, such as improving machinabilty, overall tensile strength and casting properties.
Aluminium was first produced in 1825, but in small volumes. It is worth noting, that due to recycling, over sixty percent of the aluminium ever produced, is still in use. Aluminium can be recycled repeatedly, without the quality being reduced. Furthermore, recycling aluminium, only uses five percent of the energy required to extract aluminium from bauxite ore. Therefore, it could be claimed, that aluminum is a sustainable metal.

 
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PROPERTIES OF ALUMINIUM
 
Aluminium is approximately one third the density of steel, making it lightweight in comparison. It is comparatively strong and has good properties of elasticity, especially when alloyed. It is used by the construction industry for structural purposes, when the right cross-sectional structure and alloy is applied. Aluminium can be cast, extruded, rolled, machined and cold or hot formed. Aluminium can be joined through a variety of processes including, welding, riveting, adhesives and even soldering, making it a versatile material. It resists corrosion, because an oxide layer forms on contact with air, which prevents further corrosion. Surface finishes can be applied, including anodising, paint and powder coating. Aluminium is a good thermal and electrical conductor and it is non-toxic, making it ideal for kitchen utensils. It is a non-magnetic metal, which a useful property with some practical applications.
 
 
 
WORLD PRODUCTION OF ALUMINIIUM (2017)
 
The graph below represents the international production of aluminium. China clearly produces a large proportion of the worlds supply and is a major exporter of this important metal.
Considering the need to transport aluminium around the world and the large amount of energy required to produce aluminium, is this vital metal sustainable and is it environmentally friendly?
 
 
 
 
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