History of Aluminum

In 1825 the Danish scientist Hans Christian Ørsted was the first to produce pure Aluminum, but it was not until 1886 that Heroult from France and Hall from USA invented the electrolytic process used today in the Aluminum production industry.

Aluminum is a light metal with high strength, great corrosion resistance and a good conductivity. These properties make Aluminum a metal of opportunities. When the Aluminum has been melted, it can be reused again and again, without loosing these natural properties.

Aluminum is the most commonly used metal from nature, and it is the 3rd most common of the elements (8% of earth's crust). It has a weight of only 1/3 of steel (2.7 kg/dm3). By adding little amounts of other metals the strength can be substantially increased, and in special alloys the same strength as steel can be obtained.

Production and environmental considerations
Aluminum is produced in many parts of the world, especially in Australia and Latin America where Aluminum is recovered from Bauxite. Bauxite is a mineral with a very high content of Aluminum. It is recovered in open pits where the vegetation is removed, but producers have committed themselves to restore the landscapes.

To transform Bauxite into Aluminum the mineral is crushed and the Aluminum oxide is extracted. From 4 tons of Bauxite 2 tons Aluminum oxide can be extracted, which is the amount needed to produce 1 ton of Aluminum.

It is from the Aluminium oxide that Aluminum is made using the highly energy consuming Hall-Heroult electrolytic process.

This heavy energy consuming process is often done in countries with access to water power. Over 60% of the worlds Aluminum is produced using water power, which besides being environmentally friendly, also is an economic and sustainable source of energy not contributing to the global green house effect.

Water power is the most effective source of energy compared to fossil fuels, with an utilisation of 90%. Add to this that Aluminum shows such a positive energy balance, that it is often referred to as a ”Energy bank”.

The amount of energy used to produce so called primary Aluminum, is ”stored” in the metal, from where we can withdraw it later in the lifecycle. This can be done either as a source of heat energy or by incineration.

The most common thing to do is to melt down the Aluminum for reuse as secondary Aluminum, for which process is only needed 5% of the original energy consumption.

After the electrolytic process the Aluminum is cast in long bars (primary Aluminum). These bars are processed so that the final products appear unique and beautiful. The very energy consuming process makes it even more important to hand in used Aluminum for reuse.