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Published on February 9th, 2013 | by toptech

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The Various Uses And Importance Of Aluminium

Despite it being everywhere, aluminium is often not appreciated for its various qualities. Some are surprising, while others are commendable especially for those of us increasingly worried about our environmental impact.

Abundant and Light

Aluminium is the most abundant metal on Earth, the third most abundant element and takes up 8% of the Earth’s solid surface weight. Despite this abundance and the amount it takes up, it remains a relatively light metal.

Strength

Despite being light, it is a strong metal and is corrosive resistant. This is due to “passivation”: Passivation is where a material becomes less affected by its external environmental factors, thus making aluminium ideal for external use.

Not usable in nature…

Though plants, like humans, don’t use aluminium – indeed, no life form apparently does in its pure form – plants can absorb it. Today’s grains, found in our breads, cereals, and so on, contain a few parts per million of aluminium. Of course this means even our meat has aluminium, since cows eat these same grains and absorb it.

For this reason, scientists have urged our concern for aluminium consumption should be aimed at what we’re cooking, not what we’re cooking with. That is, the meat not the pan.

..but used by humans

Note that due its abundance, strength and so on, it is used frequently by us. Aside from pans and pots, it’s used in everything from aluminium cladding, due to its pleasing look, to electrical transmissions lines.

The Ancient Greeks used it for medical purposes as an astringent, a substance that causes tissue to contract. It is also used in telescope mirrors and, of course, cans. But why do we use aluminium, as opposed to another metal, for cans?

The advantages of aluminium cans

We’ve already seen that it is light, but strong, abundant but non-toxic and non-corrosive. These are distinct qualities that make it ideal for storing frequently distributed beverages. Furthermore, these cans are recyclable, with estimates saying as much as 50% of current cans are, in fact, recycled.

Still in use

Aluminium is so durable, it is estimated that two-thirds of all aluminium produced is still in use today. This is unsurprising if we realise that an aluminium beverage container can be used and back on the shelf within 60 days.

All of this indicates some surprising, incredible advantages and properties of aluminium.

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Terrence is a long-time researcher and writer on all matters of science, attempting to provide a reasoned approach various risks.

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