Aluminium or aluminum is a chemical element with symbol Al and
atomic number 13. It is a silvery-white, soft, nonmagnetic and
ductile metal in the boron group. By mass, aluminium makes up about 8%
of the Earth's crust; it is the third most abundant element after
oxygen and silicon and the most abundant metal in the crust, though it
is less common in the mantle below. The chief ore of aluminium is
Aluminium metal is so chemically reactive that native
specimens are rare and limited to extreme reducing environments.
Instead, it is found combined in over 270 different minerals.
Aluminium is remarkable for its low density and its ability to resist
corrosion through the phenomenon of passivation.
Aluminium and its
alloys are vital to the aerospace industry and important in
transportation and building industries, such as building facades and
window frames. The oxides and sulfates are the most useful
compounds of aluminium.
Despite its prevalence in the environment, no known form of life uses
aluminium salts metabolically, but aluminium is well tolerated by
plants and animals. Because of these salts' abundance, the
potential for a biological role for them is of continuing interest,
and studies continue.
1 Physical characteristics
1.1 Nuclei and isotopes
1.2 Electron shell
2.1 Inorganic compounds
2.1.1 Rarer oxidation states
Organoaluminium compounds and related hydrides
3 Natural occurrence
4.1 Early history
4.2 Establishing nature of alum
4.3 Synthesis of metal
4.4 Rare metal
4.6 Mass usage
6 Production and refinement
6.1 Bayer process
Aluminium chloride electrolysis process
Aluminium carbothermic process
7.1 General use
7.2.4 Niche compounds
Aluminium alloys in structural applications
9 Health concerns
9.1 Occupational safety
9.2 Alzheimer's disease
10 Effect on plants
12 See also
16 Further reading
17 External links
Nuclei and isotopes
Main article: Isotopes of aluminium
Aluminium's atomic number is 13. Of aluminium isotopes, only one is
stable: 27Al. It is the only isotope that has existed on Earth in its
current form since the creation of the planet. It is essentially the
only isotope representing the element on Earth, which makes aluminium
a mononuclidic element and practically equates its standard atomic
weight to that of the isotope. Such a low standard atomic weight of
aluminium[a] has some effects on the properties of the element (see
All other isotopes are radioactive and could not have survived; the
most stable isotope of these is 26Al (half-life 720,000 years).
26Al is produced from argon in the atmosphere by spallation caused by
cosmic ray protons and used in radiodating. The ratio of 26Al to 10Be
has been used to study transport, deposition, sediment storage, burial
times, and erosion on 105 to 106 year time scales. Most meteorite
scientists believe that the energy released by the decay of 26Al was
responsible for the melting and differentiation of some asteroids
after their formation 4.55 billion years ago.
The remaining isotopes of aluminium, with mass numbers ranging from 21
to 43, all have half-lives well under an hour. Three metastable states
are known, all with half-lives under a minute.
An aluminium atom has 13 electrons, arranged in an electron
configuration of [Ne]3s23p1, with three electrons beyond a stable
noble gas configuration. Accordingly, the combined first three
ionization energies of aluminium are far lower than the fourth
ionization energy alone.
Aluminium can relatively easily surrender
its three outermost electrons in many chemical reactions (see below).
The electronegativity of aluminium is 1.61 (Pauling scale).
A free aluminium atom has a radius of 143 pm. With the three
outermost electrons removed, the radius shrinks to 39 pm for a
4-coordinated atom or 53.5 pm for a 6-coordinated atom. At
standard temperature and pressure, aluminium atoms (when not affected
by atoms of other elements) form a face-centered cubic crystal system
bound by metallic bonding provided by atoms' outermost electrons;
hence aluminium (at these conditions) is a metal. This crystal system
is shared by some other metals, such as lead and copper; the size of a
unit cell of aluminium is comparable to that of those.
Etched surface from a high purity (99.9998%) aluminium bar, size
Aluminium metal, when in quantity, is very shiny and resembles silver
because it preferentially absorbs far ultraviolet radiation while
reflecting all visible light so it does not impart any color to
reflected light, unlike the reflectance spectra of copper and gold.
Another important characteristic of aluminium is its low density,
Aluminium is a relatively soft, durable,
lightweight, ductile, and malleable with appearance ranging from
silvery to dull gray, depending on the surface roughness. It is
nonmagnetic and does not easily ignite. A fresh film of aluminium
serves as a good reflector (approximately 92%) of visible light and an
excellent reflector (as much as 98%) of medium and far infrared
radiation. The yield strength of pure aluminium is 7–11 MPa, while
aluminium alloys have yield strengths ranging from 200 MPa to 600
Aluminium has about one-third the density and stiffness of
steel. It is easily machined, cast, drawn and extruded.
Aluminium atoms are arranged in a face-centered cubic (fcc) structure.
Aluminium has a stacking-fault energy of approximately 200 mJ/m2.
Aluminium is a good thermal and electrical conductor, having 59% the
conductivity of copper, both thermal and electrical, while having only
30% of copper's density.
Aluminium is capable of superconductivity,
with a superconducting critical temperature of 1.2 kelvin and a
critical magnetic field of about 100 gauss (10 milliteslas).
Aluminium is the most common material for the fabrication of
Corrosion resistance can be excellent because a thin surface layer of
aluminium oxide forms when the bare metal is exposed to air,
effectively preventing further oxidation, in a process termed
passivation. The strongest aluminium alloys are less corrosion
resistant due to galvanic reactions with alloyed copper. This
corrosion resistance is greatly reduced by aqueous salts, particularly
in the presence of dissimilar metals.
In highly acidic solutions, aluminium reacts with water to form
hydrogen, and in highly alkaline ones to form aluminates— protective
passivation under these conditions is negligible. Primarily because it
is corroded by dissolved chlorides, such as common sodium chloride,
household plumbing is never made from aluminium.
However, because of its general resistance to corrosion, aluminium is
one of the few metals that retains silvery reflectance in finely
powdered form, making it an important component of silver-colored
Aluminium mirror finish has the highest reflectance of any
metal in the 200–400 nm (UV) and the 3,000–10,000 nm
(far IR) regions; in the 400–700 nm visible range it is
slightly outperformed by tin and silver and in the 700–3000 nm
(near IR) by silver, gold, and copper.
Aluminium is oxidized by water at temperatures below 280 °C to
produce hydrogen, aluminium hydroxide and heat:
2 Al + 6 H2O → 2 Al(OH)3 + 3 H2
This conversion is of interest for the production of hydrogen.
However, commercial application of this fact has challenges in
circumventing the passivating oxide layer, which inhibits the
reaction, and in storing the energy required to regenerate the
The vast majority of compounds, including all Al-containing minerals
and all commercially significant aluminium compounds, feature
aluminium in the oxidation state 3+. The coordination number of such
compounds varies, but generally Al3+ is six-coordinate or
tetracoordinate. Almost all compounds of aluminium(III) are
All four trihalides are well known. Unlike the structures of the three
heavier trihalides, aluminium fluoride (AlF3) features six-coordinate
Al. The octahedral coordination environment for AlF3 is related to the
compactness of the fluoride ion, six of which can fit around the small
Al3+ center. AlF3 sublimes (with cracking) at 1,291 °C
(2,356 °F). With heavier halides, the coordination numbers are
lower. The other trihalides are dimeric or polymeric with tetrahedral
Al centers. These materials are prepared by treating aluminium metal
with the halogen, although other methods exist. Acidification of the
oxides or hydroxides affords hydrates. In aqueous solution, the
halides often form mixtures, generally containing six-coordinate Al
centers that feature both halide and aquo ligands. When aluminium and
fluoride are together in aqueous solution, they readily form complex
ions such as [AlF(H
3, and [AlF
6]3−. In the case of chloride, polyaluminium clusters are formed
such as [Al13O4(OH)24(H2O)12]7+.
Aluminium hydrolysis as a function of pH. Coordinated
water molecules are omitted.
Aluminium forms one stable oxide with the chemical formula Al2O3. It
can be found in nature in the mineral corundum.
Aluminium oxide is
also commonly called alumina.
Sapphire and ruby are impure
corundum contaminated with trace amounts of other metals. The two
oxide-hydroxides, AlO(OH), are boehmite and diaspore. There are three
trihydroxides: bayerite, gibbsite, and nordstrandite, which differ in
their crystalline structure (polymorphs). Most are produced from ores
by a variety of wet processes using acid and base. Heating the
hydroxides leads to formation of corundum. These materials are of
central importance to the production of aluminium and are themselves
Aluminium carbide (Al4C3) is made by heating a mixture of the elements
above 1,000 °C (1,832 °F). The pale yellow crystals
consist of tetrahedral aluminium centers. It reacts with water or
dilute acids to give methane. The acetylide, Al2(C2)3, is made by
passing acetylene over heated aluminium.
Aluminium nitride (AlN) is the only nitride known for aluminium.
Unlike the oxides, it features tetrahedral Al centers. It can be made
from the elements at 800 °C (1,472 °F). It is air-stable
material with a usefully high thermal conductivity. Aluminium
phosphide (AlP) is made similarly; it hydrolyses to give phosphine:
AlP + 3 H2O → Al(OH)3 + PH3
Rarer oxidation states
Although the great majority of aluminium compounds feature Al3+
centers, compounds with lower oxidation states are known and sometime
of significance as precursors to the Al3+ species.
AlF, AlCl and AlBr exist in the gaseous phase when the trihalide is
heated with aluminium. The composition AlI is unstable at room
temperature, converting to triiodide:
displaystyle ce 3 AlI -> AlI3 + 2 Al
A stable derivative of aluminium monoiodide is the cyclic adduct
formed with triethylamine, Al4I4(NEt3)4. Also of theoretical interest
but only of fleeting existence are Al2O and Al2S. Al2O is made by
heating the normal oxide, Al2O3, with silicon at 1,800 °C
(3,272 °F) in a vacuum. Such materials quickly
disproportionate to the starting materials.
Very simple Al(II) compounds are invoked or observed in the reactions
of Al metal with oxidants. For example, aluminium monoxide, AlO, has
been detected in the gas phase after explosion and in stellar
absorption spectra. More thoroughly investigated are compounds of
the formula R4Al2 which contain an Al-Al bond and where R is a large
Organoaluminium compounds and related hydrides
Structure of trimethylaluminium, a compound that features
A variety of compounds of empirical formula AlR3 and AlR1.5Cl1.5
exist. These species usually feature tetrahedral Al centers formed
by dimerization with some R or Cl bridging between both Al atoms, e.g.
"trimethylaluminium" has the formula Al2(CH3)6 (see figure). With
large organic groups, triorganoaluminium compounds exist as
three-coordinate monomers, such as triisobutylaluminium. Such
compounds[which?] are widely used in industrial chemistry, despite the
fact that they are often highly pyrophoric. Few analogues exist
between organoaluminium and organoboron compounds other
than[clarification needed] large organic groups.
The important[clarification needed] aluminium hydride is lithium
aluminium hydride (LiAlH4), which is used in as a reducing agent in
organic chemistry. It can be produced from lithium hydride and
4 LiH + AlCl3 → LiAlH4 + 3 LiCl
Several useful derivatives of LiAlH4 are known, e.g. sodium
bis(2-methoxyethoxy)dihydridoaluminate. The simplest hydride,
aluminium hydride or alane, remains a laboratory curiosity. It is a
polymer with the formula (AlH3)n, in contrast to the corresponding
boron hydride that is a dimer with the formula (BH3)2.
See also: List of countries by bauxite production
Bauxite, a major aluminium ore. The red-brown color is due to the
presence of iron minerals.
Stable aluminium is created when hydrogen fuses with magnesium, either
in large stars or in supernovae. It is estimated to be the 14th
most common element in the Universe, by mass-fraction. However,
among the elements that have odd atomic numbers, aluminium is the
third most abundant by mass fraction, after hydrogen and nitrogen.
In the Earth's crust, aluminium is the most abundant (8.3% by mass)
metallic element and the third most abundant of all elements (after
oxygen and silicon). The
Earth's crust has a greater abundance of
aluminium than the rest of the planet, primarily in aluminium
silicates. In the Earth's mantle, which is only 2% aluminium by mass,
these aluminium silicate minerals are largely replaced by silica and
magnesium oxides. Overall, the Earth is about 1.4% aluminium by mass
(eighth in abundance by mass).
Aluminium occurs in greater proportion
in the Earth than in the Solar system and Universe because the more
common elements (hydrogen, helium, neon, nitrogen, carbon as
hydrocarbon) are volatile at Earth's proximity to the Sun and large
quantities of those were lost.
Because of its strong affinity for oxygen, aluminium is almost never
found in the elemental state; instead it is found in oxides or
silicates. Feldspars, the most common group of minerals in the Earth's
crust, are aluminosilicates. Native aluminium metal can only be found
as a minor phase in low oxygen fugacity environments, such as the
interiors of certain volcanoes. Native aluminium has been reported
in cold seeps in the northeastern continental slope of the South China
Sea. Chen et al. (2011) propose the theory that these deposits
resulted from bacterial reduction of tetrahydroxoaluminate
Aluminium also occurs in the minerals beryl, cryolite, garnet, spinel,
and turquoise. Impurities in Al2O3, such as chromium and iron,
yield the gemstones ruby and sapphire, respectively.
Although aluminium is a common and widespread element, not all
aluminium minerals are economically viable sources of the metal.
Almost all metallic aluminium is produced from the ore bauxite
Bauxite occurs as a weathering product of low iron
and silica bedrock in tropical climatic conditions.
mined from large deposits in Australia, Brazil, Guinea, and Jamaica;
it is also mined from lesser deposits in China, India, Indonesia,
Russia, and Suriname.
The statue of
Anteros in Piccadilly Circus, London, was made in 1893
and is one of the first statues cast in aluminium.
Main article: History of aluminium
Aluminium metal was unknown to ancient people. Some sources, based on
an account by Pliny the Elder, suggest a possibility that a Roman in
the time of the emperor
Tiberius had isolated aluminium;[c] however,
this claim has been disputed. It is possible that the Chinese were
able to produce aluminium-containing alloys during the reign of the
first Jin dynasty (265–420).[d]
The history of aluminium has been shaped by usage of alum. First
written record of alum, made by Greek historian Herodotus, dates back
to the 5th century BCE. The ancients are known to have used alum
as dyeing mordants and for city defense. After the Crusades, alum,
a good indispensable in European fabric industry, was a subject of
international commerce; it was imported to Europe from the eastern
Mediterranean until the mid-15th century.
Establishing nature of alum
The nature of alum remained unknown. Around 1530, Swiss physician
Paracelsus identified alum as separate from vitriole (sulfates),
suggesting it was a salt of an earth of alum. In 1595, German
doctor and chemist
Andreas Libavius demonstrated that alum and green
and blue vitriole were formed by the same acid but different
earths; for the undiscovered earth that formed alum, he proposed
the name "alumina". In 1722, German chemist Friedrich Hoffmann
announced his belief that the base of alum was a distinct earth.
In 1728, French chemist
Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire
Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire suggested that
alum was formed by an unknown earth and the sulfuric acid.
Friedrich Wöhler, the chemist who first thoroughly described the
In 1754, German chemist
Andreas Sigismund Marggraf
Andreas Sigismund Marggraf synthesized alumina
by boiling clay in sulfuric acid and subsequently adding potash.
In 1758, French chemist
Pierre Macquer wrote that alumina resembled a
metallic earth. In 1782, French chemist
Antoine Lavoisier wrote he
considered highly probable that alumina was an oxide of a metal which
had an affinity for oxygen so strong no known reducing agents could
overcome it. In 1783, Lavoisier replaced the dominant phlogiston
theory with the idea of oxygen combustion and stated that metallic
earths were oxides of their metals. Swedish chemist Jöns Jacob
Berzelius suggested in 1815 the formula AlO3 for alumina. The
correct formula, Al2O3, was established by the German chemist Eilhard
Mitscherlich in 1821; this helped Berzelius determine the correct
atomic weight of the metal, 27.
Synthesis of metal
Attempts to produce aluminium metal date back to 1760. The first
successful attempt, however, was completed in 1824 by Danish physicist
and chemist Hans Christian Ørsted. He reacted anhydrous aluminium
chloride with potassium amalgam, yielding a lump of metal looking
similar to tin. He presented his results and demonstrated a
sample of the new metal in 1825. Ørsted was not convinced
that he had obtained aluminium and gave little importance to his
discovery; a different source suggests he could not continue his
research because of financial reasons. Because of this and that he
published his work in a Danish magazine unknown to the general
European public, he is often not credited as the discoverer of the
element; some earlier sources went further and claimed Ørsted had
not in fact isolated aluminium.
Friedrich Wöhler visited Ørsted in 1827. Ørsted told
Wöhler he did not intend to continue his research on aluminium
extraction. Wöhler was engaged with the problem and investigated it
on his return from Denmark. After repeating Ørsted's experiments,
Wöhler did not identify any aluminium. (The reason for this
inconsistency was only discovered in 1921.) He conducted a similar
experiment in 1827 by mixing anhydrous aluminium chloride with
potassium and produced a powder of aluminium. In 1845, he was able
to produce small pieces of the metal and described some physical
properties of this metal.
The 100 ounces (2.8 kg) capstone of the Washington Monument
(Washington, D.C., United States) was made in 1884 from aluminium. At
the time, it was the largest piece of aluminium ever cast.
As Wöhler's method could not yield great quantities of aluminium, the
metal remained rare; its cost exceeded that of gold.
Henri Etienne Sainte-Claire Deville
Henri Etienne Sainte-Claire Deville announced an
industrial method of aluminium production in 1854 at the Paris Academy
Aluminium trichloride could be reduced by sodium,
which was more convenient and less expensive than potassium, which
Wöhler had used. Subsequently, bars of aluminium were exhibited
for the first time to the general public at the Exposition Universelle
of 1855. In 1856, Deville along with companions established the
world's first industrial production of aluminium. From 1855 to
1859, the price of aluminium dropped by an order of magnitude, from
US$500 to $40 per pound. Even then, aluminium was still not of
great purity and produced aluminium differed in properties by
At the next fair in Paris in 1867, the visitors were presented
aluminium wire and foil; by the time of the next fair in 1878,
aluminium had become a symbol of the future.
Aluminium factory in Griesheim, Germany, constructed in 1915
The first industrial large-scale production method was independently
developed by French engineer
Paul Héroult and American engineer
Charles Martin Hall; it is now known as the
Héroult long could not find enough interest in his invention as
demand for aluminium was still small; he started industrial production
of aluminium bronze in
Neuhausen am Rheinfall
Neuhausen am Rheinfall in 1888. Héroult sold
his patents in a year; the buyers appointed him to the position of
director of a smelter in Isère, which would produce on a large scale
aluminium bronze at the initiation and pure aluminium in a few months.
At the same time, Hall invented the same process and successfully
tested it. He then sought to employ it for a large-scale production;
for that, however, the existing smelters refused to adopt the new
technique. He started the
Pittsburgh Reduction Company
Pittsburgh Reduction Company in 1888 where
he initiated mass production of aluminium. In the coming years, this
technology was improved and new factories were constructed.
Hall–Héroult process converts alumina into the metal; Austrian
chemist Carl Joseph Bayer discovered a way of purifying bauxite to
yield alumina, now known as the Bayer process, in 1889. Modern
production of the aluminium metal is based on the Bayer and
Hall–Héroult processes. The
Hall–Héroult process was further
improved in 1920 by a team led by Swedish chemist Carl Wilhelm
Söderberg; this improvement greatly increased the world output of
Give me 30,000 tonnes of aluminium, and I will win the war.
— Soviet leader
Joseph Stalin in writing to U.S. president
Franklin Roosevelt in 1941[e]
Prices of aluminium did drop and aluminium had become widely used in
jewelry, everyday items, eyeglass frames, and optical instruments by
the early 1890s.
Aluminium tableware began to be produced in the late
19th century and gradually supplanted copper and cast iron tableware
in the first decades of the 20th century.
Aluminium foil was also
popularized at that time.
Aluminium is soft and light; it was soon
discovered, however, that alloying it with other metals could increase
its hardness while preserving the low density. Aluminium's ability to
form alloys with other metals provided the metal many uses in the late
19th and early 20th centuries. For instance, aluminium bronze is
applied to make flexible bands, sheets, and wire and is widely
employed in the shipbuilding and aviation industries. During World
War I, major governments demanded large shipments of aluminium for
light strong airframes. They often subsidized factories and the
necessary electrical supply systems. Aviation during that time
employed a new aluminium alloy, duralumin, invented in 1903 by German
materials scientist Alfred Wilm.
World production of aluminium since 1900
By the mid-20th century, aluminium had become a part of everyday
lives, also becoming an essential component of houseware. During
the mid-20th century, aluminium emerged as a civil engineering
material, with buildings using for both basic construction and
interior, and advanced its use in military engineering, for both
airplanes and land armor vehicle engines. In the beginning of the
second half of that century, the space race began. Earth's first
artificial satellite, launched in 1957, consisted of two separate
aluminium semi-spheres joined together and all subsequent space
vehicles have been made of aluminium. The aluminium can was
invented in 1956 and employed as a storage for drinks in 1958.
Throughout the 20th century, the production of aluminium rose rapidly:
while the world production of aluminium in 1900 was 6,800 metric tons,
the annual production first exceeded 100,000 metric tons in 1916;
1,000,000 tons in 1941; 10,000,000 tons in 1971. In the 1970s, the
increased demand for aluminium made it an exchange commodity; it
entered the London
Metal Exchange, the oldest industrial metal
exchange in the world, in 1978. The output continued to grow: the
annual production of aluminium exceeded 50,000,000 metric tons in
The real price for aluminium declined from $14,000 per metric ton in
1900 to $2,340 in 1948 (all prices in this subsection are in 1998
United States dollars). Extraction and processing costs were
lowered over technological progress and the scale of the economies.
However, the need to exploit lower-grade poorer quality deposits and
the use of fast increasing input costs (above all, energy) increased
the net cost of aluminium; the real price began to grow in the
1970s with the rise of energy cost. Production moved from the
industrialized countries to countries where production was
cheaper. After aluminium became an exchange commodity, aluminium
has been traded for United States dollars and its price fluctuated
along with the exchange rates of the currency. Production costs in
the late 20th century changed because of advances in technology, lower
energy prices, exchange rates of the United States dollar, and alumina
BRIC countries' combined share grew in the first
decade of the 21st century from 32.6% to 56.5% in primary production
and 21.4% to 47.8% in primary consumption. China is accumulating
an especially large share of world's production thanks to abundance of
resources, cheap energy, and governmental stimuli; it also
increased its consumption share from 2% in 1972 to 40% in 2010. In
the United States, Western Europe, and Japan, most aluminium was
consumed in transportation, engineering, construction, and
Aluminium is named after alumina, or aluminium oxide in modern
nomenclature. The word "alumina" comes from "alum", the mineral from
which it was collected. The word "alum" comes from alumen, a Latin
word meaning "bitter salt". The word alumen stems from the
Proto-Indo-European root *alu- meaning "bitter" or "beer".
British chemist Humphry Davy, who performed a number of experiments
aimed to synthesize the metal, is credited as the person who named
aluminium. In 1808, he suggested the metal be named alumium. This
suggestion was criticized by contemporary chemists from France,
Germany, and Sweden, who insisted the metal should be named for the
oxide, alumina, from which it would be isolated. In 1812, Davy
chose aluminum, thus producing the modern name. However, it is
spelled and pronounced differently outside of North America: aluminum
is in use in the U.S. and Canada while aluminium is in use
The -ium suffix followed the precedent set in other newly discovered
elements of the time: potassium, sodium, magnesium, calcium, and
strontium (all of which Davy isolated himself). Nevertheless, element
names ending in -um were not unknown at the time; for example,
platinum (known to Europeans since the 16th century), molybdenum
(discovered in 1778), and tantalum (discovered in 1802). The -um
suffix is consistent with the universal spelling alumina for the oxide
(as opposed to aluminia); compare to lanthana, the oxide of lanthanum,
and magnesia, ceria, and thoria, the oxides of magnesium, cerium, and
In 1812, British scientist Thomas Young wrote an anonymous review
of Davy's book, in which he objected to aluminum and proposed the name
aluminium: "for so we shall take the liberty of writing the word, in
preference to aluminum, which has a less classical sound." This
name did catch on: while the -um spelling was occasionally used in
Britain, the American scientific language used -ium from the
start. Most scientists used -ium throughout the world in the 19th
century; it still remains the standard in most other
languages. In 1828, American lexicographer
Noah Webster used
exclusively the aluminum spelling in his American Dictionary of the
English Language. In the 1830s, the -um spelling started to gain
usage in the United States; by the 1860s, it had become the more
common spelling there outside science. In 1892, Hall used the -um
spelling in his advertising handbill for his new electrolytic method
of producing the metal, despite his constant use of the -ium spelling
in all the patents he filed between 1886 and 1903. It was subsequently
suggested this was a typo rather than intended. By 1890, both
spellings had been common in the U.S. overall, the -ium spelling being
slightly more common; by 1895, the situation had reversed; by 1900,
aluminum had been twice as common as aluminium; during the following
decade, the -um spelling dominated American usage. In 1925, the
American Chemical Society
American Chemical Society adopted this spelling.
International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry
International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) adopted
aluminium as the standard international name for the element in
1990. In 1993, they recognized aluminum as an acceptable
variant; the same is true for the most recent 2005 edition of the
IUPAC nomenclature of inorganic chemistry. IUPAC official
publications use the -ium spelling as primary but list both where
appropriate.[f] English follows this standard by adopting
the "aluminium" spelling as the sole spelling in chemistry-related
Production and refinement
Main article: Bayer process
Extrusion billets of aluminium
Bauxite is converted to aluminium oxide (Al2O3) by the Bayer
process. Relevant chemical equations are:
Al2O3 + 2 NaOH → 2 NaAlO2 + H2O
2 H2O + NaAlO2 → Al(OH)3 + NaOH
2 Al(OH)3 → Al2O3 + 3 H2O
The intermediate, sodium aluminate, with the simplified formula
NaAlO2, is soluble in strongly alkaline water, and the other
components of the ore are not. Depending on the quality of the bauxite
ore, twice as much waste ("
Bauxite tailings") as alumina is generated.
Hall–Héroult process and
The conversion of alumina to aluminium metal is achieved by the
Hall–Héroult process. In this energy-intensive process, a solution
of alumina in a molten (950 and 980 °C (1,740 and
1,800 °F)) mixture of cryolite (Na3AlF6) with calcium fluoride
is electrolyzed to produce metallic aluminium:
Al3+ + 3 e− → Al
The liquid aluminium metal sinks to the bottom of the solution and is
tapped off, and usually cast into large blocks called aluminium
billets for further processing.
Carbon dioxide is produced at the
2 O2− + C → CO2 + 4 e−
The carbon anode is consumed by reaction with oxygen to form carbon
dioxide gas, with a small quantity of fluoride gases. In modern
smelters, the gas is filtered through alumina to remove fluorine
compounds and return aluminium fluoride to the electrolytic cells. The
anode (i.e. the reduction cell) must be replaced regularly, since it
is consumed in the process. The cathode is also eroded, mainly by
electrochemical processes and liquid metal movement induced by intense
electrolytic currents. After five to ten years, depending on the
current used in the electrolysis, a cell must be rebuilt because of
Aluminium electrolysis with the
Hall–Héroult process consumes a lot
of energy. The worldwide average specific energy consumption is
approximately 15±0.5 kilowatt-hours per kilogram of aluminium
produced (52 to 56 MJ/kg). Some smelters achieve approximately
12.8 kW·h/kg (46.1 MJ/kg). (Compare this to the heat of
reaction, 31 MJ/kg, and the
Gibbs free energy
Gibbs free energy of reaction,
29 MJ/kg.) Minimizing line currents for older technologies are
typically 100 to 200 kiloamperes; state-of-the-art smelters operate at
about 350 kA.
The Hall–Heroult process produces aluminium with a purity of above
99%. Further purification can be done by the Hoopes process. This
process involves the electrolysis of molten aluminium with a sodium,
barium and aluminium fluoride electrolyte. The resulting aluminium has
a purity of 99.99%.
Electric power represents about 20% to 40% of the cost of producing
aluminium, depending on the location of the smelter. Aluminium
production consumes roughly 5% of electricity generated in the
Aluminium producers tend to locate smelters in places where
electric power is both plentiful and inexpensive—such as the United
Arab Emirates with its large natural gas supplies, and
Iceland and Norway with energy generated from renewable
sources. The world's largest smelters of alumina are located in the
People's Republic of China, Russia and the provinces of
British Columbia in Canada.
Aluminium spot price 1987–2012
In 2005, the People's Republic of China was the top producer of
aluminium with almost a one-fifth world share, followed by Russia,
Canada, and the US, reports the British Geological Survey.
Over the last 50 years, Australia has become the world's top producer
of bauxite ore and a major producer and exporter of alumina (before
being overtaken by China in 2007). Australia produced 77
million tonnes of bauxite in 2013. The Australian deposits have
some refining problems, some being high in silica, but have the
advantage of being shallow and relatively easy to mine.
Aluminium chloride electrolysis process
The high energy consumption of
Hall–Héroult process motivated the
development of the electrolytic process based on aluminium chloride.
The pilot plant with 6500 tons/year output was started in 1976 by
Alcoa. The plant offered two advantages: (i) energy requirements were
40% less than plants using the
Hall–Héroult process, and (ii) the
more accessible kaolinite (instead of bauxite and cryolite) was used
for feedstock. Nonetheless, the pilot plant was shut down. The reasons
for failure were the cost of aluminium chloride, general technology
maturity problems, and leakage of the trace amounts of toxic
polychlorinated biphenyl compounds.
Aluminium chloride process can also be used for the co-production of
titanium, depending on titanium contents in kaolinite.
Aluminium carbothermic process
The non-electrolytic aluminium carbothermic process of aluminium
production would theoretically be cheaper and consume less energy.
However, it has been in the experimental phase for decades because the
high operating temperature creates difficulties in material technology
that have not yet been solved.
Aluminium recycling code
Aluminium is theoretically 100% recyclable without any loss of its
natural qualities. According to the International Resource Panel's
Metal Stocks in Society report, the global per capita stock of
aluminium in use in society (i.e. in cars, buildings, electronics
etc.) is 80 kg (180 lb). Much of this is in more-developed
countries (350–500 kg (770–1,100 lb) per capita) rather
than less-developed countries (35 kg (77 lb) per capita).
Knowing the per capita stocks and their approximate lifespans is
important for planning recycling.
Recovery of the metal through recycling has become an important task
of the aluminium industry.
Recycling was a low-profile activity until
the late 1960s, when the growing use of aluminium beverage cans
brought it to public awareness.
Recycling involves melting the scrap, a process that requires only 5%
of the energy used to produce aluminium from ore, though a significant
part (up to 15% of the input material) is lost as dross (ash-like
oxide). An aluminium stack melter produces significantly less
dross, with values reported below 1%. The dross can undergo a
further process to extract aluminium.
Europe has achieved high rates of aluminium recycling ranging from 42%
of beverage cans, 85% of construction materials, and 95% of transport
Recycled aluminium is known as secondary aluminium, but maintains the
same physical properties as primary aluminium. Secondary aluminium is
produced in a wide range of formats and is employed in 80% of alloy
injections. Another important use is extrusion.
White dross from primary aluminium production and from secondary
recycling operations still contains useful quantities of aluminium
that can be extracted industrially. The process produces
aluminium billets, together with a highly complex waste material. This
waste is difficult to manage. It reacts with water, releasing a
mixture of gases (including, among others, hydrogen, acetylene, and
ammonia), which spontaneously ignites on contact with air;
contact with damp air results in the release of copious quantities of
ammonia gas. Despite these difficulties, the waste is used as a filler
in asphalt and concrete.
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Aluminium is the most widely used non-ferrous metal. The global
production of aluminium in 2005 was 31.9 million tonnes. It exceeded
that of any other metal except iron (837.5 million tonnes).
Aluminium is almost always alloyed, which markedly improves its
mechanical properties, especially when tempered. For example, the
common aluminium foils and beverage cans are alloys of 92% to 99%
aluminium. The main alloying agents are copper, zinc, magnesium,
manganese, and silicon (e.g., duralumin) with the levels of other
metals in a few percent by weight.
Household aluminium foil
Aluminium-bodied Austin "A40 Sports" (c. 1951)
Some of the many uses for aluminium metal are in:
Transportation (automobiles, aircraft, trucks, railway cars,
marine vessels, bicycles, spacecraft, etc.) as sheet, tube, and
Packaging (cans, foil, frame of etc.).
Food and beverage containers, because of its resistance to corrosion.
Construction (windows, doors, siding, building wire, sheathing,
A wide range of household items, from cooking utensils to baseball
bats and watches.
Street lighting poles, sailing ship masts, walking poles.
Outer shells and cases for consumer electronics and photographic
Electrical transmission lines for power distribution ("creep" and
oxidation are not issues in this application as the terminations are
usually multi-sided "crimps" which enclose all sides of the conductor
with a gas-tight seal).
MKM steel and
Super purity aluminium (SPA, 99.980% to 99.999% Al), used in
electronics and CDs, and also in wires/cabling.
Heat sinks for transistors, CPUs, and other components in electronic
Substrate material of metal-core copper clad laminates used in high
brightness LED lighting.
Light reflective surfaces and paint.
Pyrotechnics, solid rocket fuels, explosives and thermite
Production of hydrogen gas by reaction with water or sodium
In alloy with magnesium to make aircraft bodies and other
Cooking utensils, because of its resistance to corrosion and
Coins in such countries as France, Italy, Poland, Finland, Romania,
Israel, and the former Yugoslavia struck from aluminium or an
Musical instruments. Some guitar models sport aluminium diamond plates
on the surface of the instruments, usually either chrome or black.
Kramer Guitars and
Travis Bean are both known for having produced
guitars with necks made of aluminium, which gives the instrument a
very distinctive sound.
Aluminium is used to make some guitar
resonators and some electric guitar speakers.
Aluminium is usually alloyed – it is used as pure metal only when
corrosion resistance and/or workability is more important than
strength or hardness. The strength of aluminium alloys is abruptly
increased with small additions of scandium, zirconium, or
hafnium. A thin layer of aluminium can be deposited onto a flat
surface by physical vapor deposition or (very infrequently) chemical
vapor deposition or other chemical means[which?] to form optical
coatings and mirrors.
Because aluminium is abundant and most of its derivatives exhibit low
toxicity, the compounds of aluminium enjoy wide and sometimes
Aluminium oxide (Al2O3) and the associated oxy-hydroxides and
trihydroxides are produced or extracted from minerals on a large
scale. The great majority of this material is converted to metallic
aluminium. In 2013, about 10% of the domestic shipments in the United
States were used for other applications. One major use is to
absorb water where it is viewed as a contaminant or impurity. Alumina
is used to remove water from hydrocarbons in preparation for
subsequent processes that would be poisoned by moisture.
Aluminium oxides are common catalysts for industrial processes; e.g.
Claus process to convert hydrogen sulfide to sulfur in refineries
and to alkylate amines. Many industrial catalysts are "supported" by
alumina, meaning that the expensive catalyst material (e.g., platinum)
is dispersed over a surface of the inert alumina.
Being a very hard material (
Mohs hardness 9), alumina is widely used
as an abrasive; being extraordinarily chemically inert, it is useful
in highly reactive environments such as high pressure sodium lamps.
Several sulfates of aluminium have industrial and commercial
Aluminium sulfate (Al2(SO4)3·(H2O)18) is produced on the
annual scale of several billions of kilograms. About half of the
production is consumed in water treatment. The next major application
is in the manufacture of paper. It is also used as a mordant, in fire
extinguishers, in fireproofing, as a food additive (
E number E173),
and in leather tanning.
Aluminium ammonium sulfate, which is also
called ammonium alum, (NH4)Al(SO4)2·12H2O, is used as a mordant and
in leather tanning, as is aluminium potassium sulfate
([Al(K)](SO4)2)·(H2O)12. The consumption of both alums is
Aluminium chloride (AlCl3) is used in petroleum refining and in the
production of synthetic rubber and polymers. Although it has a similar
name, aluminium chlorohydrate has fewer and very different
applications, particularly as a colloidal agent in water purification
and an antiperspirant. It is an intermediate in the production of
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Many aluminium compounds have niche applications:
Aluminium acetate in solution is used as an astringent.
Aluminium borate (Al2O3·B2O3) and aluminium fluorosilicate
(Al2(SiF6)3) are used in the production of glass, ceramics, synthetic
Aluminium phosphate (AlPO4) used in the manufacture of glass, ceramic,
pulp and paper products, cosmetics, paints, varnishes, and in dental
Aluminium hydroxide (Al(OH)3) is used as an antacid, and mordant; it
is used also in water purification, the manufacture of glass and
ceramics, and in the waterproofing fabrics.
Lithium aluminium hydride is a powerful reducing agent used in organic
Organoaluminiums are used as Lewis acids and cocatalysts.
Methylaluminoxane is a cocatalyst for
polymerization to produce vinyl polymers such as polyethene.
Aqueous aluminium ions (such as aqueous aluminium sulfate) are used to
treat against fish parasites such as Gyrodactylus salaris.
In many vaccines, certain aluminium salts serve as an immune adjuvant
(immune response booster) to allow the protein in the vaccine to
achieve sufficient potency as an immune stimulant.
Aluminium alloys in structural applications
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Aluminium alloys with a wide range of properties are used in
engineering structures. Alloy systems are classified by a number
system (ANSI) or by names indicating their main alloying constituents
DIN and ISO).
The strength and durability of aluminium alloys vary widely, not only
as a result of the components of the specific alloy, but also as a
result of heat treatments and manufacturing processes. A lack of
knowledge of these aspects has from time to time led to improperly
designed structures and gained aluminium a bad reputation.
One important structural limitation of aluminium alloys is their
fatigue strength. Unlike steels, aluminium alloys have no well-defined
fatigue limit, meaning that fatigue failure eventually occurs, under
even very small cyclic loadings. Engineers must assess applications
and design for a fixed and finite life of the structure, rather than
Another important property of aluminium alloys is sensitivity to heat.
Workshop procedures are complicated by the fact that aluminium, unlike
steel, melts without first glowing red. Manual blow torch operations
require additional skill and experience.
Aluminium alloys, like all
structural alloys, are subject to internal stresses after heat
operations such as welding and casting. The lower melting points of
aluminium alloys make them more susceptible to distortions from
thermally induced stress relief. Stress can be relieved and controlled
during manufacturing by heat-treating the parts in an oven, followed
by gradual cooling—in effect annealing the stresses.
The low melting point of aluminium alloys has not precluded use in
rocketry, even in combustion chambers where gases can reach
3500 K. The Agena upper stage engine used regeneratively cooled
aluminium in some parts of the nozzle, including the thermally
critical throat region.
Another alloy of some value is aluminium bronze (Cu-Al alloy).
Bauxite tailings" storage facility in Stade, Germany. The aluminium
industry generates about 70 million tons of this waste annually.
Schematic of Al absorption by human skin.
There are five major Al forms absorbed by human body: the free
solvated trivalent cation (Al3+(aq)); low-molecular-weight, neutral,
soluble complexes (LMW-Al0(aq)); high-molecular-weight, neutral,
soluble complexes (HMW-Al0(aq)); low-molecular-weight, charged,
soluble complexes (LMW-Al(L)n+/−(aq)); nano and micro-particulates
(Al(L)n(s)). They are transported across cell membranes or cell
epi-/endothelia through five major routes: (1) paracellular; (2)
transcellular; (3) active transport; (4) channels; (5) adsorptive or
Despite its widespread occurrence in the Earth crust, aluminium has no
known function in biology.
Aluminium salts are remarkably nontoxic,
aluminium sulfate having an LD50 of 6207 mg/kg (oral, mouse),
which corresponds to 500 grams for an 80 kg (180 lb)
person. The extremely low acute toxicity notwithstanding, the
health effects of aluminium are of interest in view of the widespread
occurrence of the element in the environment and in commerce.
In very high doses, aluminium is associated with altered function of
the blood–brain barrier. A small percentage of people are
allergic to aluminium and experience contact dermatitis, digestive
disorders, vomiting or other symptoms upon contact or ingestion of
products containing aluminium, such as antiperspirants and antacids.
In those without allergies, aluminium is not as toxic as heavy metals,
but there is evidence of some toxicity if it is consumed in amounts
greater than 40 mg/day per kg of body mass. The use of
aluminium cookware has not been shown to lead to aluminium toxicity in
general, however excessive consumption of antacids containing
aluminium compounds and excessive use of aluminium-containing
antiperspirants provide more significant exposure levels.[citation
needed] Consumption of acidic foods or liquids with aluminium enhances
aluminium absorption, and maltol has been shown to increase the
accumulation of aluminium in nerve and bone tissues. Aluminium
increases estrogen-related gene expression in human breast cancer
cells cultured in the laboratory. The estrogen-like effects of
these salts have led to their classification as metalloestrogens.
There is little evidence that aluminium in antiperspirants causes skin
irritation. Nonetheless, its occurrence in antiperspirants, dyes
(such as aluminium lake), and food additives has caused concern.
Although there is little evidence that normal exposure to aluminium
presents a risk to healthy adults, some studies point to risks
associated with increased exposure to the metal.
food may be absorbed more than aluminium from water. It is
classified as a non-carcinogen by the US Department of Health and
In case of suspected sudden intake of a large amount of aluminium,
deferoxamine mesylate may be given to help eliminate it from the body
Exposure to powdered aluminium or aluminium welding fumes can cause
pulmonary fibrosis. The United States Occupational Safety and Health
Administration (OSHA) has set a permissible exposure limit of
15 mg/m3 time weighted average (TWA) for total exposure and
5 mg/m3 TWA for respiratory exposure. The US National Institute
for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommended exposure limit
is the same for respiratory exposure but is 10 mg/m3 for total
exposure, and 5 mg/m3 for fumes and powder.
Fine aluminium powder can ignite or explode, posing another workplace
Aluminium has controversially been implicated as a factor in
Alzheimer's disease. According to the Alzheimer's Society, the
medical and scientific opinion is that studies have not convincingly
demonstrated a causal relationship between aluminium and Alzheimer's
disease. Research in this area has been inconclusive; aluminium
accumulation may be a consequence of the disease rather than a causal
Effect on plants
Aluminium is primary among the factors that reduce plant growth on
acid soils. Although it is generally harmless to plant growth in
pH-neutral soils, the concentration in acid soils of toxic Al3+
cations increases and disturbs root growth and
Most acid soils are saturated with aluminium rather than hydrogen
ions. The acidity of the soil is therefore, a result of hydrolysis of
aluminium compounds. The concept of "corrected lime
potential" is now used to define the degree of base saturation in
soil testing to determine the "lime requirement".
Wheat has developed a tolerance to aluminium, releasing organic
compounds that bind to harmful aluminium cations.
Sorghum is believed
to have the same tolerance mechanism. The first gene for aluminium
tolerance has been identified in wheat. It was shown that sorghum's
aluminium tolerance is controlled by a single gene, as for wheat.
This adaptation is not found in all plants.
A Spanish scientific report from 2001 claimed that the fungus
Geotrichum candidum consumes the aluminium in compact discs.
Other reports all refer back to the 2001 Spanish report and there is
no supporting original research. Better documented, the bacterium
Pseudomonas aeruginosa and the fungus
Cladosporium resinae are
commonly detected in aircraft fuel tanks that use kerosene-based fuels
(not AV gas), and laboratory cultures can degrade aluminium.
However, these life forms do not directly attack or consume the
aluminium; rather, the metal is corroded by microbe waste
Panel edge staining
List of countries by aluminium production
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^ Most other metals have greater standard atomic weights: for
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^ Aluminium's low density (compared to the other metals) arises from
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^ Deville had established that heating a mixture of sodium chloride,
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Wikimedia Commons has media related to Aluminium.
Wikisource has the text of the 1911
Encyclopædia Britannica article
The Periodic Table of Videos
The Periodic Table of Videos (University of Nottingham)
Portal - Aluminum – from the Agency for Toxic
Substances and Disease Registry, United States Department of Health
and Human Services
CDC – NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards – Aluminum
World production of primary aluminium, by country
Price history of aluminum, according to the IMF
[permanent dead link] History of
Aluminium – from the website of the
Emedicine – Aluminium
The short film ALUMINUM (1941) is available for free download at the
Periodic table (Large cells)
Alkaline earth metal
BNF: cb11976300k (data)