Aluminium is a young material, and in the little more than a century since its first commercial production, it has become the world's second most used metal after steel. Modern life is full of advantages brought about by the use of aluminium. In addition, the light metal has become the primary choice for leading designers, architects and engineers. So why aluminium? What are the major benefits of this unique metal:
Pure aluminium is soft enough to carve but mixed with small amounts of other metal to form alloys, it can provide the strength of steel, with only one-third of the weight. Without aluminium there would be no commercial air travel.
Aluminium sprayed on a polymer forms a thin insulating sheet that can keep a newborn baby warm or save the life of someone on an exposed mountaintop.
Its combination of properties ensure aluminium and its alloys can be easily shaped by any of the main industrial metalworking processes - rolling, extrusion, forging and casting.
Aluminium has excellent barrier function which makes it ideal for food and drink packaging and containers. It keeps out air, light and microorganisms while preserving the contents inside.
Aluminium (33% the weight of steel) used in transport reducing the weight of the vehicles, hence in providing fuel efficiency, reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.
The metal's natural coating of aluminium oxide provides a highly effective barrier to the ravages of air, temperature, moisture and chemical attack, making aluminium a useful construction material.
Once made, aluminium can be recycled again and again, using only a very small fraction of the energy required to make "new" metal. Recycling saves about 95% of the energy required for primary production.
Aluminium is a superb conductor of electricity, which has seen it replace copper in many electrical applications. It is also non-magnetic and non-combustible, properties invaluable in advanced industries such as electronics or in offshore structures.
So why aluminium?
Because it is the complete "package". Engineers, designers and architects want a versatile, lightweight material that combines functionality and cost-effectiveness with innovative form and design potential and aluminium is all of the above and more.
Text: International Aluminium Institute
Photos: Meifan Metal Material Co., Ltd, f1hobbies