USES OF ALUMINIUM
THE 12 MILLION TONS ANNUAL METAL

Aluminium, the third most common element found in the earth’s crust, is one of the metals that accompanies us most in our daily lives. You will agree with me that, if you think about it, the uses of aluminium that you can find will be many.

All these applications have their reason, and are covered by the properties of the metal and its performance in alloys. From yogurt lids to aeroplanes, we find that aluminium is as versatile (and recyclable) as we want it to be.

In this post we will review the main uses of aluminium for everyday products and large industry. As we will see, we are surrounded by aluminium.

Main alloys


The alloys, therefore, allow the natural conditions of the aluminium to be improved, so that it can be cast, forged, extruded or used for welding.

Aluminium alloys, applications

Features

It is the properties of aluminium that allow its uses to be so widespread. It is a corrosion-resistant and easily malleable metal, not to mention its ability to be recycled without losing properties.

Among all its characteristics, they stand out:

  • Light, yes, but strong, too. The specific weight of aluminium is only 2.7 g/cm3. Thanks to its alloying capacity, its strength can be increased without any problem, and with only 1/3 of the weight of steel, for example.
  • It is also resistant to corrosion. As a metal, aluminium naturally oxidises to protect against corrosion. To prevent rusting, the material is covered with a thin plastic sheet, electronegative metal or paint.
  • Excellent driver. What, at some moments, as we saw in the post about polyamide 66 and thermal break is a disadvantage, according to its use it becomes one of the best properties of the material.
  • Reflection and ductility. In addition to being a good conductor, aluminium is also a good reflector of light and heat. That is why we find aluminium in heat-reflective products. At the same time, it is a very ductile metal, with a low melting point, a characteristic that allows it to be shaped very easily, unlike, for example, steel.
  • Waterproof. This can be seen in its function as an aluminium foil for wrapping food. Aluminium, even when laminated to a minimum thickness, is waterproof. Another advantage and reason for its use for food storage is that it is non-toxic.
Uses of aluminium, properties

Reciclyng

Aluminium can be recycled, without losing its properties, over and over again, reducing up to 90% of the energy needed to transform it compared to its raw extraction. In other words, recycling aluminium helps to preserve resources and lower emissions into the atmosphere.

In Europe, where more than 400,000 tonnes of aluminium cans are consumed, the recycling rate exceeds 70% in all EU countries. The transport industry offers the highest recovery rate, with 95% of the aluminium used being recycled.

Aluminium in everyday life


We have already left a few brushstrokes on where we can find aluminium in our daily lives. As we have seen, its properties make it a very useful metal for different applications.

In this way, we encounter a large number of aluminium-based products throughout the day. From the aluminium foil with which we wrap our food to the frame of the bicycle we ride.

Below, we will look at some of the most typical products made from aluminium.

Common uses. We are surrounded by aluminium

Of course, all this consumption, which is in the 12,000,000 tons per year in its different alloys and products in Europe, is reflected in our lives. Just by entering a kitchen we can find aluminium in utensils, appliances, briks, etc.

Let’s see below the most common uses of aluminium within the consumer sector:

  • Consumer electronics: we find aluminium in many parts of, for example, our mobile phones. Moreover, its conductivity has led it to replace copper in many cases as a conductive metal. In addition to telephony, aluminium has been widely used in music amplifiers.
  • Packaging: in the form of sheets, like aluminium foil, dedicated to the preservation of food. Thanks to the thinness of these sheets and the malleability of the material, we can adapt it to the shape of our food. We can also find it in soda cans and tetra bricks, as the aluminium prevents the interior from heating up excessively and does not allow oxygen to enter, making it ideal for preserving the liquid.
  • Household appliances: we find aluminium in many of the household appliances of the white line, such as refrigerators, cookers, washing machines, microwaves.
  • Bicycle frames: thanks to its lightness, aluminium has been widely used to manufacture bicycle frames. It is not as strong as steel or titanium, so they are easier to deform, but they compensate for this with their low weight.
  • Bodywork: most of the car bodywork is made of an aluminium base, in addition to other parts such as rims, chassis, frames, etc.

Aluminium in industry


Within the industry we usually find duralumin, an alloy of aluminium, copper, manganese and magnesium, widely used for the manufacture of parts in aeronautics and transport.

The fact is that the importance of aluminium in the European economy has not stopped growing over the last 40 years. In particular, the automotive industry has seen the greatest growth in aluminium consumption, to the detriment of steel.

Common uses. Strategic material

Due to its multitude of alloys and uses, which cover all types of sectors within the industry, aluminium has come to be considered as one of the strategic metals par excellence. And this in spite of being such a common element.

Let’s look at some of the most common uses of aluminium in industry:

  • Construction: in addition to windows, which are the place that aluminium has traditionally occupied and continues to occupy, we find it in the construction sector in the form of composite panels for ventilated facades.
  • Transport: we find aluminium not only in the body and other parts of cars or in high-speed trains, but also in the fuselage of planes and other mechanical components thanks to the low weight of the metal and its low cost.
  • Electricity: it is again its lightness and its price that has made aluminium replace gold, silver and copper as a conductive material on many occasions, even though its properties as a conductor are inferior.

And up to here this summary to the uses of the aluminium that we can find in our day to day as well as in the industry. As you have seen, we really live surrounded by this strategic material.

If you are interested in continuing your research into the uses of aluminium, be sure to visit the rest of our entries and take a look at our gallery of projects, where you will find more than 300 buildings whose facades have aluminium composite panels.