After iron, aluminium is by far the most widely used metal in the world. this is because aluminium has a unique combination of
attractive properties. many of these are extremely important in our efforts to create a more sustainable society.
Low weight, high strength, superior malleability, ease of machining, excellent corrosion resistance and good thermal and electrical conductivity are some of aluminium’s most important properties. aluminium is also widely recycled. this gives it vital environmental benefits.
Recycling aluminium, instead of extracting it from ore, takes just five per cent of the original energy requirements and reduces
greenhouse gas emissions by 95 per cent.
Aluminium – a natural part of our environment
Aluminium is the third most abundant element in the earth’s crust after oxygen and silicon. this makes it one of a handful of metals for which the availability of raw materials can be regarded as unlimited. Around eight per cent of the earth’s crust consists of aluminium in the form of various minerals. Bauxite is one such mineral that has a high content of aluminium.
Aluminium minerals are formed when different types of rock are eroded and leached out. this process, which takes place continuously, leads to the natural enrichment of aluminium compounds.
Reducing product weight with aluminium
Aluminium’s low density (one-third that of steel and copper) and high strength make large weight savings possible. take cars for example; careful use of aluminium can yield weight savings of up to 300 kg in a medium size car. that means a saving of more than 20 per cent of the total vehicle weight.
For each 100 kg of weight saved, fuel consumption is reduced on average by 0,35 litres/100 km, and emissions of the greenhouse gas CO2 are reduced by 0,9 kg/100 km.
Product life is an important factor when assessing environmental impact. thanks their corrosion resistance and strength, products based on aluminium generally lead long lives.This is a major reason due to the fact that of all the aluminium ever produced, it is estimated that 75 per cent is still in use. another reason is that the use of aluminium is growing steadily, there are more and more aluminium based products on the market.
The aluminium industry is young. aluminium was produced for the first time by electrolysis of aluminium oxide in 1886. By 1900, global production of primary aluminium totalled around 5 700 tonnes. By 2007, the global production of primary
and remelted aluminium was just over 50 million tonnes.
A vast energy bank
The millions and millions of tonnes of aluminium that are still in use in products around the world do not just represent an efficient material, but also a valuable energy resource. aluminium can be recycled over and over again without losing its unique properties. By using just five per cent of the energy originally used for extraction, we get a metal with exactly the same value as primary aluminium.
Remelting does not just recycle the metal, but effectively recovers 95 per cent of the original energy input! This gives scrap a high value and creates a strong incentive for recycling. today, for example, 95 per cent of the aluminium content of cars is recycled, and this metal accounts for 50 per cent of the material value when cars are scrapped.