Aluminium compounds form 8 per cent of the earth’s crust and are present in most rocks, vegetation and animals. Indeed aluminium is the third most common crustal element and most common crustal metal on earth.
Pure aluminium is a soft lightweight metal. Mixed with small, often minute, quantities of other materials ; iron, silicon, zinc, copper, magnesium, tin, titamium, lithium, chromium, tungsten, manganese, nickel, zirconium and boron – it is possible to produce an array of alloys with specific properties for very different purposes.
Aluminium can be very strong, light (less than one third the specific weight of steel, copper or brass), ductile, and malleable. It is an excellent conductor of heat and electricity. Polished aluminium has the highest reflectivity of any material – even mirror glass. It can be cast, rolled or extruded into an infinite variety of shapes. It has unique barrier properties as a packaging material, it resists corrosion and it can be recycled ; again and again and again, with no loss of quality or properties.
Aluminium ore, most commonly bauxite, is plentiful and occurs mainly in tropical and sub-tropical areas ; Africa, West Indies, South America and Australia. There are also some deposits in Europe.
Bauxite is refined into aluminium oxide trihydrate (alumina) and then electrolytically reduced into metallic aluminium. Primary aluminium production facilities are located all over the world, often in areas where there are abundant supplies of inexpensive energy, such as hydroelectric power.
Aluminium is the most recently discovered metal in common use. Aluminium only exists naturally in combination with other materials ; silicates and oxides. These are very stable and it took many years of painstaking research to “unlock” the metal. Early civilizations used aluminium-bearing clays to make pottery, and aluminium salts to make dyes and medicines.
1808: Sir Humphrey Davy (Britain…

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