DIALOGUE SUR L'ALUMINIUM

A Unique Metal

Lighter than glass and steel, at once useful, aesthetic and relatively inexpensive to produce, aluminium also has the advantage of a practically infinite capacity for recycling, making it a choice solution in many respects, including in terms of environmental protection.

Did you know that …

  •  Aluminium is the world’s most used metal after iron? 
  •  It is the most abundant metal in the earth's crust (8%)?
  •  Nearly three-quarters of all aluminium ever produced globally remains in use today?
  •  When polished, the reflectivity of aluminium is superior to that of a mirror?
  •  It is the second most malleable and the sixth most ductile metal?
  •  It has the same strength as steel but is three times lighter?
Element
Profil

A precious metal 

Although it is the third most abundant element in the earth’s crust, aluminium does not exist in its pure state. In addition, aluminium is a relatively young metal in comparison to metals like iron and copper; its discovery dates back to 1807. At the end of the 19th century, aluminium was considered a precious metal more valuable than gold.

Phenomenal growth 


Only in 1886 did we develop a more economical method to produce aluminium; that year, 16 metric tonnes were produced. Today, annual world production reaches 41 million metric tonnes, of which approximately 7% is made in Canada.

The impetus for the extraordinary expansion of the aluminium industry during the 20th century lies in this metal's diverse properties. Aluminium's many qualities explain the reason why its popularity continues to grow among new product designers.

EXCEPTIONAL CHARACTERISTICS

LIGHT WEIGHT 

Airbus A380 980
Airbus 380

Aluminium is about a third the weight of steel. Its light weight makes it particularly suitable for all means of transportation: road (30 to 50% lighter), rail, water and air (almost all airplanes are made of aluminium alloy). This property makes it a metal of choice for electric power transmission; with equal resistance, a wire made of aluminium alloy is twice as light as copper. Aluminuim is also much appreciated in various mechanical applications, particularly for components of moving machines, such as engines and robotic devices.

RESISTANCE

Rear Wheel Hub 969
Rear wheel hub

In its pure state, aluminium is soft and flexible. Its resistance can be increased by alloys or cold treatment.

DIVERSITY OF THE ALLOYS 

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Aluminium can be alloyed with several other metals, such as copper, magnesium, manganese, silicon, lithium and zinc, to further improve certain properties.

CORROSION RESISTANT 

Jaguar Xk Body Structure 991
Jaguar XK body structure

A compact layer of oxide forms naturally on the surface of aluminium, protecting it from atmospheric corrosion and giving aluminium products a very long life. The visual aspect of the material can be further improved by anodizing or heat treatment. Maintenance of aluminium products is minimal, even when unprotected.

ELECTRICAL CONDUCTIVITY

Aluminium Power Lines 413
Aluminium power lines 
Alcoa

Aluminium is an excellent electrical conductor. Pure aluminium and certain alloys, in the form of bars or tubes, are commonly used as conductors in many electrical applications, including transmission lines and industrial cables

THERMAL CONDUCTIVITY

Nicholl Food Packaging Micro Rib Tray 906
Alufoil Trophy 2010 Winner (EAFA)

Aluminium's thermal conductivity is remarkable and promotes its use in diverse manufacturing sectors, such as kitchen utensils, solar collectors, refrigeration components, disks and brakes. Aluminium is also used in the electronic industry, to desalinate sea water and in all fields employing heat exchange devices.

REFLEXIVITY 

Aluminium Reflector 982
Aluminium reflector

Aluminium is an excellent reflector of heat, light and electromagnetic waves.

ABSENCE OF MAGNETIC PROPERTIES 

Borkumriff Iv Yacht 993
Borkumriff-IV yacht
Corus

In addition to being non-combustible and spark-proof, aluminium is non-magnetic, an invaluable property in certain advanced electrical and electronic applications, such as in the marine industry and in offshore structures equipped with devices that are sensitive to magnetic disturbances.

DUCTILITY 


Extrusion Profile 345 Lowrez
Extrusion profile

Aluminium is easy to process, no matter what method is used (milling, drilling, shearing, forging or spinning). It is easy to shape, making it ideal for extruding, strip rolling, bending or other plastic hot or cold fabrication methods. It can also be soldered and glued.

INERTNESS

Soup Can 869
Soup can
International Aluminium Institute

The chemical inertness and metallic stability of aluminium make it an excellent choice for product conservation.

SURFACE TREATMENT POTENTIAL 

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Surface treatments of all kinds make it an ideal metal for aesthetic or decorative products.

COLOUR TREATMENT POTENTIAL 

Aluminium Bottles 890
Aluminium takes colour well and is suitable for all types of printing.

RECYCLABLE 

Baled Can Scrap 499
Aluminium can be recycled indefinitely without losing any of its properties. Manufacturing residues and alumiinum products at the end of their life cycle (e.g. beverage cans) are simply remelted during secondary aluminium manufacturing, a process that requires only 5% of the electricity necessary to produce the primary metal. At present, close to 35% of world demand for aluminium is filled by recycled aluminium. Of all recyclable material, aluminium has the highest value. For information on the value of aluminium, visit the Recyc-Québec Web site.

LIFECYCLE BENEFITS 

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Since 1990, the aluminium industry has reduced its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by more than 50%. While its manufacturing process is increasingly cleaner, aluminium is also greener in its end uses, apart from the fact that it can be recycled indefinitely. For example, in an automobile, one kilogram of aluminium, used to replace steel or iron, has the potential to eliminate 20 kg of GHG emissions over the lifetime of the vehicle.

President's Editorial

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