Aluminum is the most common metal found within the earth’s crust (8 percent) but does not occur as a metal in its natural state. Aluminum ore (bauxite) must first be mined then chemically refined through the Bayer process to produce an intermediate product, aluminum oxide (alumina).
Alumina is then refined through the Hall–Héroult process into the pure metal by an electrolytic process. Aluminum is 100 percent recyclable without loss of its properties. Aluminum’s physical properties make the metal light in weight, strong, noncorrosive, nonsparking, nonmagnetic, nontoxic and noncombustible.
Once, more precious than gold and silver
Before the discovery of the Bayer and Hall–Héroult processes, aluminum was more expensive than gold or silver. Napoleon III served state dinners on aluminum plates.
Aluminum helped pioneer flight
The Wright brothers used aluminum to build key parts of their biplane’s engine because no manufacturer could provide an engine light enough with the needed horsepower.
The lifespan of an aluminum can
A can is recycled over and over again in a true closed loop. Unopened aluminum cans are very strong, despite being so thin. Four six-packs of cans are able to support the weight of a 2-ton vehicle!
Recycling efforts can be improved
Every three months, Americans throw away enough scrap aluminum to rebuild the entire U.S. commercial airplane fleet. Recycling that metal would save the energy equivalent of 16 million barrels of oil.