The metal that changed the things that surround us

14 Apr 2020

The metal that changed the things that surround us

Technology and furniture, but also construction and transport: all the versatility of aluminum.

It is the third most abundant metal on our planet and the third most abundant element in the complex. No other metal can be compared to aluminum when it comes to its variety of uses. Some of these may not be obvious, such as use in the production of glass, but many others are part of our life in many areas, from smaller objects to large structures.

Traveling is easier

Aluminum is used in the transport industry because of its excellent weight / strength ratio. Less weight means that less force is needed to move the vehicles, thus achieving greater efficiency in energy and resource consumption. Its corrosion resistance is an additional advantage and eliminates the need for heavy and expensive anticorrosive coatings.

It is the third most abundant metal on our planet and the third most abundant element in the complex.

While the automotive industry still relies heavily on steel, the drive to increase fuel efficiency and reduce CO2 emissions has led to a much wider use of aluminum. Experts predict that the average aluminum content in a car will increase by 60% by 2025. Even very large vehicles used to move heavy loads, such as Ford F-series trucks, are built with aluminum chassis and bodywork.

High-speed rail systems also use aluminum. Metal allows designers to reduce the weight of trains, reducing friction resistance.

Aluminum is also widely used in the aviation industry, again due to its characteristics of lightness, strength and flexibility. It was used in airship chassis, such as Zeppelin, before planes were even invented. On modern aircraft, aluminum alloys are used everywhere, from the fuselage to the cockpit instruments.

The space shuttles contain from 50% to 90% of aluminum alloys in their parts. Orion MPCV (Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle) will serve as NASA’s next generation space exploration vehicle; the entire basic structure is in aluminum.

More construction options

Aluminum buildings are practically maintenance-free thanks to the resistance of aluminum to corrosion. Its thermal efficiency allows you to keep buildings warm in winter and cool in summer. Aluminum can be curved, cut and welded in any desired shape, giving architects the freedom to create buildings that would be impossible to make with other materials (e.g. wood, plastic or steel).

The first building where aluminum was widely used was the Empire State Building in New York, built in 1931. Today aluminum is commonly used in the construction of skyscrapers and bridges.

Its lighter weight makes it easier, faster and more convenient to work with. It also helps reduce other costs: a steel-built building would require much deeper foundations due to the greater weight, resulting in higher construction costs.

Bring light everywhere

Although aluminum has only 63% of the electrical conductivity of copper, the low density of aluminum makes it the best option for long distance power lines. If copper were used, the support structures would be heavier, more numerous and more expensive. Aluminum is also more ductile than copper, it can be reduced into wires much more easily and is more resistant to corrosion.

It is stronger and more resistant than plastic and lighter than steel.

In addition to power lines and cables, aluminum is used in engines, household appliances and power systems, for television antennas and satellite dishes, and for some LED bulbs.

Commonly used objects

Aluminum is increasingly used to produce smartphones, tablets, laptops and flat-screen TVs. Its appearance makes modern technological gadgets elegant and sophisticated, light and resistant. It is the perfect combination of form and function, essential for consumer products. Aluminum is increasingly replacing plastic and steel components, as it is stronger and more resistant than plastic and lighter than steel. It also allows heat to dissipate quickly, avoiding overheating of electronic devices.

Apple mainly uses aluminum parts in its iPhones and MacBooks, as it is the material of choice for high-end electronics brands, such as the audio producer Bang & Olufsen.

Interior designers like to use aluminum because it is easy to model and looks beautiful. They use it to make furniture such as tables, chairs, lamps, frames and decorative panels. Unconventional Frame Opera (UFO) metal furniture accessories are made using only recycled aluminum.

Aluminum is very popular in the kitchen. Pots and pans lead well to heat, are non-toxic, rust-resistant and easy to clean.

Aluminum cans are used to package food and drinks. Coca-Cola and Pepsi have been using aluminum cans since 1967.