Aluminium (Al – Atomic Number 13). Or should I say Aluminum? Officially (IUPAC – The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry) say the former, and that’s the one I’m most used to – but in the United States Aluminum is the more common. IUPAC also accept this as a variant. The history of the name gets even more interesting, as it is this latter spelling that was first given by Humphry Davy in 1812 when he was working to isolate the metal from alumina (after he’d dismissed the name of Alumium).
Aluminium is the third most abundant element on earth, following Oxygen and Silicon – but is quite reactive so is rarely found as a native metal. The chief ore of Aluminium is bauxite – and I even remember from school geography that Australia and Brazil are the main producers – with cheap electricity being key to extraction. One thing I didn’t know – 5% of the electricity generated in the United States is consumed by Aluminium production!
Aluminium is light and resists corrosion (protected by a layer of Aluminium Oxide that forms when Oxygen from the air reacts with the surface or pure Aluminium, and these p[roperties make it perfect for use in the aerospace and other transportation industries – sometime on its own, but also as alloys which can increase its strength. Another important use is for transmission of electivity – power lines benefit from the greater per weight conductivity compared to copper. Aluminium foil and other forms of food packaging are more common uses of Aluminium – and an historically significant use was for the capstone for the Washington Monument.
Next up – Iodine!
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