Aluminum is a silvery-white metal and does not stick to magnets. It is of low density and high ductility. Its appearance dulled and its reactivity passivated by a film of aluminum oxide that naturally forms on the surface of the metal under normal conditions. The oxide film results in a material that resists corrosion.
There is more aluminum in the Earth’s crust than any other metal. At about 8 percent, aluminum is the third most abundant element in our planet’s crust, behind oxygen and silicon. There are hundreds of aluminum alloys, or mixes with other metals. Aluminum alone is light but weak so other metals need to be supplemented to give it strength.
The history of aluminum in the aerospace industry goes way back. In fact aluminum was used in aviation before airplanes had even been invented. In the late 19th century, the Count Ferdinand Zeppelin used aluminum to make the frames of his famous Zeppelin airships.
Aluminum is ideal for aircraft manufacture because it is lightweight and strong. Aluminum is roughly a third the weight of steel, allowing an aircraft to carry more weight and or become more fuel efficient. Furthermore, aluminum’s high resistance to corrosion ensures the safety of the aircraft and its passengers.
Aluminum is invaluable not just in airplanes but in spacecraft, where low weight coupled with maximum strength is even more essential. In 1957, the Soviet Union launched the first satellite, the Sputnik 1, which was made from an aluminum alloy.
Aluminum is the second-most used material in automobiles, and it has the potential to become the most-used, as new aluminum alloys are made to deliver more value than steel. Aluminum alloys designed for automobiles weigh half as much as traditional mild steel and absorb twice as much energy during accidents. This makes automobiles stronger, lighter, safer, and more fuel efficient.
Today, smartphones, tablets, laptops, and flat screen TV’s are made with an increasing amount of aluminum. Its appearance makes modern tech gadgets look sleek and sophisticated while being light and durable. It is the perfect combination of form, function and style, which is critical for consumer products. More and more, aluminum is replacing plastic and steel components, as it is stronger and tougher than plastic and lighter than steel. It also allows heat to dissipate quickly, keeping electronic devices from overheating.
The use of aluminum in consumer electronics started, in part, with the innovative designs that came from the engineering labs of Apple. The company popularized aluminum laptops in 2003 with the introduction of the aluminum PowerBook. In 2008, Apple took the lead in yet another revolutionary use of aluminum, through its development of unibody enclosures. The unibody manufacturing process carves a chassis out of a single block of aluminum. Unibody chassis were first featured in the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro laptops.
Other hi-end electronics brands like audio manufacturer Bang & Olufsen also heavily favor aluminum. A specialist designer and manufacturer of premium audio, video and telephone systems, have been creating aluminum bodied products for quite some time. Bang & Olufsen supplies sound systems and radio equipment to high end automotive brands like Audi, Aston Martin, Mercedes Benz and BMW.
Aluminum is the third most abundant element in our planet’s crust, behind oxygen and silicon. Before the discovery of the Bayer and Hall–Héroult processes, aluminum was more expensive than gold or silver.