This week, we take a closer look at one of the most common scrap metals to be found around our yard; aluminium. Used in everything from soft drink cans to aeroplane engines, aluminium has a versatility that few other metals can compete with and in this article, we uncover eight interesting facts hidden in the history of aluminium.
- The word ‘aluminium’ comes from the word ‘alum’
Alum is a Latin word that means ‘bitter salt’ referring to the crystalized double sulphates where alum is found in it’s natural state.
- Aluminium was not discovered until the 19th century
Although ‘alum’, an aluminium based salt was used throughout ancient times, aluminium itself does not occur in it’s pure form naturally, and requires both electricity and an advanced understanding of chemistry to produce. Because of this, aluminium was produced in it’s purest form for the first time in 1845.
- It was originally treated as a precious metal
Due to it’s silvery appearance and relative newness, aluminium was initially expensive and used for luxury items. In fact, the first aluminium products were war medals made during the reign of Napoleon III.
- Aluminium played a crucial role in the development of aviation
In the early 20th century, it was aluminium’s lightweight properties what allowed Wilbur and Orville Wright to build an engine both powerful enough to propel an aeroplane, and light enough to enable it to become airborne.
- Aluminium foil was invented in 1907
Chocolatiers were one of the first groups to use this technology on an industrial scale. In 1911, Theodor Tobler started to use the foil to package his new chocolate bar, the Toblerone.
- The first aluminium can was produced in 1958
This technology was developed in the UAW as a collaboration between an aluminium company and a beverage company who used the cans to sell beer. Coca-Cola and Pepsi did not begin to sell drinks in a can until 1967.
- China is the world’s largest producer of aluminium
Although Russia had been the largest primary aluminium producer in the world since the 1960s, the changing political landscape in the country meant that production slowed heading into the 21st century. In 2002, China exceeded Russia’s aluminium production, with all aluminium produced being used internally.
- About two thirds of aluminium ever produced is still used today
This is due to aluminium’s highly recyclable nature which enables it to be repurposed over and over again without degrading. Impressively, most aluminium cans are part of a ‘closed loop recycling’ process (where the object is recycled and remade as the same thing again) and takes just 90 days from the point of recycling to return to the supermarket shelves.
Metal Men are established scrap metal buyers based in Melbourne. To learn more about our capabilities, please get in touch with us by calling 03 5941 6