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Aluminium, 13Al
Alternative nameAluminum (U.S., Canada)
AppearanceSilvery gray metallic
Standard atomic weight Ar°(Al)
Aluminium in the periodic table
Hydrogen Helium
Lithium Beryllium Boron Carbon Nitrogen Oxygen Fluorine Neon
Sodium Magnesium Aluminium Silicon Phosphorus Sulfur Chlorine Argon
Potassium Calcium Scandium Titanium Vanadium Chromium Manganese Iron Cobalt Nickel Copper Zinc Gallium Germanium Arsenic Selenium Bromine Krypton
Rubidium Strontium Yttrium Zirconium Niobium Molybdenum Technetium Ruthenium Rhodium Palladium Silver Cadmium Indium Tin Antimony Tellurium Iodine Xenon
Caesium Barium Lanthanum Cerium Praseodymium Neodymium Promethium Samarium Europium Gadolinium Terbium Dysprosium Holmium Erbium Thulium Ytterbium Lutetium Hafnium Tantalum Tungsten Rhenium Osmium Iridium Platinum Gold Mercury (element) Thallium Lead Bismuth Polonium Astatine Radon
Francium Radium Actinium Thorium Protactinium Uranium Neptunium Plutonium Americium Curium Berkelium Californium Einsteinium Fermium Mendelevium Nobelium Lawrencium Rutherfordium Dubnium Seaborgium Bohrium Hassium Meitnerium Darmstadtium Roentgenium Copernicium Nihonium Flerovium Moscovium Livermorium Tennessine Oganesson


Heat of vaporization284 kJ/mol
Molar heat capacity24.20 J/(mol·K)
Vapor pressure
P (Pa) 1 10 100 1 k 10 k 100 k
at T (K) 1482 1632 1817 2054 2364 2790
Atomic properties
Hans Christian Ørsted (1824)
Named byHumphry Davy (1812[a])
Isotopes of aluminium
Main isotopes[9] Decay
abun­dance half-life (t1/2) mode pro­duct
26Al trace 7.17×105 y
ε[10]16% 26Mg
27Al 100%
 Category: Aluminium
| references

Aluminium (aluminum in North American English) is a chemical element; it has symbol Al and atomic number 13. Aluminium has a density lower than that of other common metals, about one-third that of steel. It has a great affinity towards oxygen, forming a protective layer of oxide on the surface when exposed to air. Aluminium visually resembles silver, both in its color and in its great ability to reflect light. It is soft, nonmagnetic, and ductile. It has one stable isotope, 27Al, which is highly abundant, making aluminium the twelfth-most common element in the universe. The radioactivity of 26Al is used in radiometric dating.

Chemically, aluminium is a

cation Al3+ is small and highly charged; as such, it has more polarizing power, and bonds formed by aluminium have a more covalent character. The strong affinity of aluminium for oxygen leads to the common occurrence of its oxides in nature. Aluminium is found on Earth primarily in rocks in the crust, where it is the third-most abundant element, after oxygen and silicon, rather than in the mantle, and virtually never as the free metal. It is obtained industrially by mining bauxite, a sedimentary rock
rich in aluminium minerals.

The discovery of aluminium was announced in 1825 by Danish physicist

strategic resource for aviation. In 1954, aluminium became the most produced non-ferrous metal, surpassing copper
. In the 21st century, most aluminium was consumed in transportation, engineering, construction, and packaging in the United States, Western Europe, and Japan.

Despite its prevalence in the environment, no living organism is known to use aluminium salts for metabolism, but aluminium is well tolerated by plants and animals. Because of the abundance of these salts, the potential for a biological role for them is of interest, and studies continue.

Physical characteristics


Of aluminium isotopes, only 27
is stable. This situation is common for elements with an odd atomic number.[b] It is the only primordial aluminium isotope, i.e. the only one that has existed on Earth in its current form since the formation of the planet. It is therefore a mononuclidic element and its standard atomic weight is virtually the same as that of the isotope. This makes aluminium very useful in nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), as its single stable isotope has a high NMR sensitivity.[12] The standard atomic weight of aluminium is low in comparison with many other metals.[c]

All other isotopes of aluminium are

asteroids after their formation 4.55 billion years ago.[15]

The remaining isotopes of aluminium, with

metastable states are known, all with half-lives under a minute.[11]

Electron shell

An aluminium atom has 13 electrons, arranged in an electron configuration of [Ne] 3s2 3p1,[16] with three electrons beyond a stable noble gas configuration. Accordingly, the combined first three ionization energies of aluminium are far lower than the fourth ionization energy alone.[17] Such an electron configuration is shared with the other well-characterized members of its group, boron, gallium, indium, and thallium; it is also expected for nihonium. Aluminium can surrender its three outermost electrons in many chemical reactions (see below). The electronegativity of aluminium is 1.61 (Pauling scale).[18]

M. Tunes & S. Pogatscher, Montanuniversität Leoben 2019 No copyrights =)
High-resolution STEM-HAADF micrograph of Al atoms viewed along the [001] zone axis.

A free aluminium atom has a

electrical resistivity.[21]


Aluminium metal has an appearance ranging from silvery white to dull gray, depending on the

, which adds a protective layer of oxide on the surface.

The density of aluminium is 2.70 g/cm3, about 1/3 that of steel, much lower than other commonly encountered metals, making aluminium parts easily identifiable through their lightness.[24] Aluminium's low density compared to most other metals arises from the fact that its nuclei are much lighter, while difference in the unit cell size does not compensate for this difference. The only lighter metals are the metals of groups 1 and 2, which apart from beryllium and magnesium are too reactive for structural use (and beryllium is very toxic).[25] Aluminium is not as strong or stiff as steel, but the low density makes up for this in the aerospace industry and for many other applications where light weight and relatively high strength are crucial.[26]

Pure aluminium is quite soft and lacking in strength. In most applications various


Aluminium is an excellent


Aluminium combines characteristics of pre- and post-transition metals. Since it has few available electrons for metallic bonding, like its heavier

group 13 congeners, it has the characteristic physical properties of a post-transition metal, with longer-than-expected interatomic distances.[21] Furthermore, as Al3+ is a small and highly charged cation, it is strongly polarizing and bonding in aluminium compounds tends towards covalency;[35] this behavior is similar to that of beryllium (Be2+), and the two display an example of a diagonal relationship.[36]

The underlying core under aluminium's valence shell is that of the preceding

Lewis acids and readily form adducts.[37] Additionally, one of the main motifs of boron chemistry is regular icosahedral structures, and aluminium forms an important part of many icosahedral quasicrystal alloys, including the Al–Zn–Mg class.[38]

Aluminium has a high chemical affinity to oxygen, which renders it suitable for use as a reducing agent in the thermite reaction. A fine powder of aluminium metal reacts explosively on contact with liquid oxygen; under normal conditions, however, aluminium forms a thin oxide layer (~5 nm at room temperature)[39] that protects the metal from further corrosion by oxygen, water, or dilute acid, a process termed passivation.[35][40] Because of its general resistance to corrosion, aluminium is one of the few metals that retains silvery reflectance in finely powdered form, making it an important component of silver-colored paints.[41] Aluminium is not attacked by oxidizing acids because of its passivation. This allows aluminium to be used to store reagents such as nitric acid, concentrated sulfuric acid, and some organic acids.[42]

In hot concentrated

chlorides, such as common sodium chloride, which is why household plumbing is never made from aluminium.[43] The oxide layer on aluminium is also destroyed by contact with mercury due to amalgamation or with salts of some electropositive metals.[35] As such, the strongest aluminium alloys are less corrosion-resistant due to galvanic reactions with alloyed copper,[28] and aluminium's corrosion resistance is greatly reduced by aqueous salts, particularly in the presence of dissimilar metals.[21]

Aluminium reacts with most nonmetals upon heating, forming compounds such as

intermetallic compounds involving metals from every group on the periodic table.[35]

Inorganic compounds

The vast majority of compounds, including all aluminium-containing minerals and all commercially significant aluminium compounds, feature aluminium in the oxidation state 3+. The coordination number of such compounds varies, but generally Al3+ is either six- or four-coordinate. Almost all compounds of aluminium(III) are colorless.[35]

Aluminium hydrolysis as a function of pH. Coordinated water molecules are omitted. (Data from Baes and Mesmer)[44]

In aqueous solution, Al3+ exists as the hexaaqua cation [Al(H2O)6]3+, which has an approximate Ka of 10−5.[12] Such solutions are acidic as this cation can act as a proton donor and progressively hydrolyze until a precipitate of aluminium hydroxide, Al(OH)3, forms. This is useful for clarification of water, as the precipitate nucleates on suspended particles in the water, hence removing them. Increasing the pH even further leads to the hydroxide dissolving again as aluminate, [Al(H2O)2(OH)4], is formed.

Aluminium hydroxide forms both salts and aluminates and dissolves in acid and alkali, as well as on fusion with acidic and basic oxides.[35] This behavior of Al(OH)3 is termed amphoterism and is characteristic of weakly basic cations that form insoluble hydroxides and whose hydrated species can also donate their protons. One effect of this is that aluminium salts with weak acids are hydrolyzed in water to the aquated hydroxide and the corresponding nonmetal hydride: for example, aluminium sulfide yields hydrogen sulfide. However, some salts like aluminium carbonate exist in aqueous solution but are unstable as such; and only incomplete hydrolysis takes place for salts with strong acids, such as the halides, nitrate, and sulfate. For similar reasons, anhydrous aluminium salts cannot be made by heating their "hydrates": hydrated aluminium chloride is in fact not AlCl3·6H2O but [Al(H2O)6]Cl3, and the Al–O bonds are so strong that heating is not sufficient to break them and form Al–Cl bonds instead:[35]

2[Al(H2O)6]Cl3 heat  Al2O3 + 6 HCl + 9 H2O

All four

heat of formation. Each aluminium atom is surrounded by six fluorine atoms in a distorted octahedral arrangement, with each fluorine atom being shared between the corners of two octahedra. Such {AlF6} units also exist in complex fluorides such as cryolite, Na3AlF6.[f] AlF3 melts at 1,290 °C (2,354 °F) and is made by reaction of aluminium oxide with hydrogen fluoride gas at 700 °C (1,300 °F).[45]

With heavier halides, the coordination numbers are lower. The other trihalides are

Lewis acidic nature makes them useful as catalysts for the Friedel–Crafts reactions. Aluminium trichloride has major industrial uses involving this reaction, such as in the manufacture of anthraquinones and styrene; it is also often used as the precursor for many other aluminium compounds and as a reagent for converting nonmetal fluorides into the corresponding chlorides (a transhalogenation reaction).[45]

Aluminium forms one stable oxide with the

polymorphs). Many other intermediate and related structures are also known.[12] Most are produced from ores by a variety of wet processes using acid and base. Heating the hydroxides leads to formation of corundum. These materials are of central importance to the production of aluminium and are themselves extremely useful. Some mixed oxide phases are also very useful, such as spinel (MgAl2O4), Na-β-alumina (NaAl11O17), and tricalcium aluminate (Ca3Al2O6, an important mineral phase in Portland cement).[12]

The only stable chalcogenides under normal conditions are aluminium sulfide (Al2S3), selenide (Al2Se3), and telluride (Al2Te3). All three are prepared by direct reaction of their elements at about 1,000 °C (1,800 °F) and quickly hydrolyze completely in water to yield aluminium hydroxide and the respective hydrogen chalcogenide. As aluminium is a small atom relative to these chalcogens, these have four-coordinate tetrahedral aluminium with various polymorphs having structures related to wurtzite, with two-thirds of the possible metal sites occupied either in an orderly (α) or random (β) fashion; the sulfide also has a γ form related to γ-alumina, and an unusual high-temperature hexagonal form where half the aluminium atoms have tetrahedral four-coordination and the other half have trigonal bipyramidal five-coordination.[48]


zinc blende structure. All four can be made by high-temperature (and possibly high-pressure) direct reaction of their component elements.[48]

Aluminium alloys well with most other metals (with the exception of most

annealing. Bonding in them is predominantly metallic and the crystal structure primarily depends on efficiency of packing.[49]

There are few compounds with lower oxidation states. A few

aluminium monoxide, AlO, has been detected in the gas phase after explosion[51] and in stellar absorption spectra.[52] More thoroughly investigated are compounds of the formula R4Al2 which contain an Al–Al bond and where R is a large organic ligand.[53]

Organoaluminium compounds and related hydrides

Structure of trimethylaluminium, a compound that features five-coordinate carbon.

A variety of compounds of empirical formula AlR3 and AlR1.5Cl1.5 exist.

heterocyclic and cluster organoaluminium compounds involving Al–N bonds.[55]

The industrially most important aluminium hydride is lithium aluminium hydride (LiAlH4), which is used in as a reducing agent in organic chemistry. It can be produced from lithium hydride and aluminium trichloride.[57] The simplest hydride, aluminium hydride or alane, is not as important. It is a polymer with the formula (AlH3)n, in contrast to the corresponding boron hydride that is a dimer with the formula (BH3)2.[57]

Natural occurrence


Aluminium's per-particle abundance in the

interstellar gas;[59] if the original 26Al were still present, gamma ray maps of the Milky Way would be brighter.[59]


Bauxite, a major aluminium ore. The red-brown color is due to the presence of iron oxide minerals.

Overall, the Earth is about 1.59% aluminium by mass (seventh in abundance by mass).[60] Aluminium occurs in greater proportion in the Earth's crust than in the Universe at large, because aluminium easily forms the oxide and becomes bound into rocks and stays in the Earth's crust, while less reactive metals sink to the core.[59] In the Earth's crust, aluminium is the most abundant metallic element (8.23% by mass[29]) and the third most abundant of all elements (after oxygen and silicon).[61] A large number of silicates in the Earth's crust contain aluminium.[62] In contrast, the Earth's mantle is only 2.38% aluminium by mass.[63] Aluminium also occurs in seawater at a concentration of 2 μg/kg.[29]

Because of its strong affinity for oxygen, aluminium is almost never found in the elemental state; instead it is found in oxides or silicates.

continental slope of the South China Sea. It is possible that these deposits resulted from bacterial reduction of tetrahydroxoaluminate Al(OH)4.[67]

Although aluminium is a common and widespread element, not all aluminium minerals are economically viable sources of the metal. Almost all metallic aluminium is produced from the ore bauxite (AlOx(OH)3–2x). Bauxite occurs as a weathering product of low iron and silica bedrock in tropical climatic conditions.[68] In 2017, most bauxite was mined in Australia, China, Guinea, and India.[69]


Friedrich Wöhler, the chemist who first thoroughly described metallic elemental aluminium

The history of aluminium has been shaped by usage of alum. The first written record of alum, made by Greek historian Herodotus, dates back to the 5th century BCE.[70] The ancients are known to have used alum as a dyeing mordant and for city defense.[70] After the Crusades, alum, an indispensable good in the European fabric industry,[71] was a subject of international commerce;[72] it was imported to Europe from the eastern Mediterranean until the mid-15th century.[73]

The nature of alum remained unknown. Around 1530, Swiss physician Paracelsus suggested alum was a salt of an earth of alum.[74] In 1595, German doctor and chemist Andreas Libavius experimentally confirmed this.[75] In 1722, German chemist Friedrich Hoffmann announced his belief that the base of alum was a distinct earth.[76] In 1754, German chemist Andreas Sigismund Marggraf synthesized alumina by boiling clay in sulfuric acid and subsequently adding potash.[76]

Attempts to produce aluminium metal date back to 1760.[77] The first successful attempt, however, was completed in 1824 by Danish physicist and chemist Hans Christian Ørsted. He reacted anhydrous aluminium chloride with potassium amalgam, yielding a lump of metal looking similar to tin.[78][79][80] He presented his results and demonstrated a sample of the new metal in 1825.[81][82] In 1827, German chemist Friedrich Wöhler repeated Ørsted's experiments but did not identify any aluminium.[83] (The reason for this inconsistency was only discovered in 1921.)[84] He conducted a similar experiment in the same year by mixing anhydrous aluminium chloride with potassium and produced a powder of aluminium.[80] In 1845, he was able to produce small pieces of the metal and described some physical properties of this metal.[84] For many years thereafter, Wöhler was credited as the discoverer of aluminium.[85]

The statue of Anteros in Piccadilly Circus, London, was made in 1893 and is one of the first statues cast in aluminium.

As Wöhler's method could not yield great quantities of aluminium, the metal remained rare; its cost exceeded that of gold.

Henri Etienne Sainte-Claire Deville and companions.[86] Deville had discovered that aluminium trichloride could be reduced by sodium, which was more convenient and less expensive than potassium, which Wöhler had used.[87] Even then, aluminium was still not of great purity and produced aluminium differed in properties by sample.[88] Because of its electricity-conducting capacity, aluminium was used as the cap of the Washington Monument, completed in 1885. The tallest building in the world at the time, the non-corroding metal cap was intended to serve as a lightning rod

The first industrial large-scale production method was independently developed in 1886 by French engineer Paul Héroult and American engineer Charles Martin Hall; it is now known as the Hall–Héroult process.[89] The Hall–Héroult process converts alumina into metal. Austrian chemist Carl Joseph Bayer discovered a way of purifying bauxite to yield alumina, now known as the Bayer process, in 1889.[90] Modern production of the aluminium metal is based on the Bayer and Hall–Héroult processes.[91]

Prices of aluminium dropped and aluminium became widely used in jewelry, everyday items, eyeglass frames, optical instruments, tableware, and foil in the 1890s and early 20th century. Aluminium's ability to form hard yet light alloys with other metals provided the metal with many uses at the time.[92] During World War I, major governments demanded large shipments of aluminium for light strong airframes;[93] during World War II, demand by major governments for aviation was even higher.[94][95][96]

By the mid-20th century, aluminium had become a part of everyday life and an essential component of housewares.

aluminium can was invented in 1956 and employed as a storage for drinks in 1958.[103]

World production of aluminium since 1900

Throughout the 20th century, the production of aluminium rose rapidly: while the world production of aluminium in 1900 was 6,800 metric tons, the annual production first exceeded 100,000 metric tons in 1916; 1,000,000 tons in 1941; 10,000,000 tons in 1971.[98] In the 1970s, the increased demand for aluminium made it an exchange commodity; it entered the London Metal Exchange, the oldest industrial metal exchange in the world, in 1978.[91] The output continued to grow: the annual production of aluminium exceeded 50,000,000 metric tons in 2013.[98]


energy shortages in China drive up costs for electricity.[112]


The names aluminium and aluminum are derived from the word alumine, an obsolete term for alumina,[j] a naturally occurring oxide of aluminium.[114] Alumine was borrowed from French, which in turn derived it from alumen, the classical Latin name for alum, the mineral from which it was collected.[115] The Latin word alumen stems from the Proto-Indo-European root *alu- meaning "bitter" or "beer".[116]

1897 American advertisement featuring the aluminum spelling


British chemist Humphry Davy, who performed a number of experiments aimed to isolate the metal, is credited as the person who named the element. The first name proposed for the metal to be isolated from alum was alumium, which Davy suggested in an 1808 article on his electrochemical research, published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society.[117] It appeared that the name was created from the English word alum and the Latin suffix -ium; but it was customary then to give elements names originating in Latin, so this name was not adopted universally. This name was criticized by contemporary chemists from France, Germany, and Sweden, who insisted the metal should be named for the oxide, alumina, from which it would be isolated.[118] The English name alum does not come directly from Latin, whereas alumine/alumina obviously comes from the Latin word alumen (upon declension, alumen changes to alumin-).

One example was Essai sur la Nomenclature chimique (July 1811), written in French by a Swedish chemist, Jöns Jacob Berzelius, in which the name aluminium is given to the element that would be synthesized from alum.[119][k] (Another article in the same journal issue also refers to the metal whose oxide is the basis of sapphire, i.e. the same metal, as to aluminium.)[121] A January 1811 summary of one of Davy's lectures at the Royal Society mentioned the name aluminium as a possibility.[122] The next year, Davy published a chemistry textbook in which he used the spelling aluminum.[123] Both spellings have coexisted since. Their usage is currently regional: aluminum dominates in the United States and Canada; aluminium is prevalent in the rest of the English-speaking world.[124]


In 1812, British scientist Thomas Young[125] wrote an anonymous review of Davy's book, in which he proposed the name aluminium instead of aluminum, which he thought had a "less classical sound".[126] This name caught on: although the -um spelling was occasionally used in Britain, the American scientific language used -ium from the start.[127] Most scientists throughout the world used -ium in the 19th century;[124] and it was entrenched in several other European languages, such as French, German, and Dutch.[l] In 1828, an American lexicographer, Noah Webster, entered only the aluminum spelling in his American Dictionary of the English Language.[128] In the 1830s, the -um spelling gained usage in the United States; by the 1860s, it had become the more common spelling there outside science.[127] In 1892, Hall used the -um spelling in his advertising handbill for his new electrolytic method of producing the metal, despite his constant use of the -ium spelling in all the patents he filed between 1886 and 1903: it is unknown whether this spelling was introduced by mistake or intentionally; but Hall preferred aluminum since its introduction because it resembled platinum, the name of a prestigious metal.[129] By 1890, both spellings had been common in the United States, the -ium spelling being slightly more common; by 1895, the situation had reversed; by 1900, aluminum had become twice as common as aluminium; in the next decade, the -um spelling dominated American usage. In 1925, the American Chemical Society adopted this spelling.[124]

The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) adopted aluminium as the standard international name for the element in 1990.[130] In 1993, they recognized aluminum as an acceptable variant;[130] the most recent 2005 edition of the IUPAC nomenclature of inorganic chemistry also acknowledges this spelling.[131] IUPAC official publications use the -ium spelling as primary, and they list both where it is appropriate.[m]

Production and refinement

World's largest producing countries of aluminium, 2019[133]
Country Output
 China 36,000
 India 3,700
 Russia 3,600
 Canada 2,900
 United Arab Emirates 2,700
 Australia 1,600
 Bahrain 1,400
 Norway 1,300
 United States 1,100
 Iceland 850
Other countries 9,200
Total 64,000

The production of aluminium starts with the extraction of

alumina, which is then processed using the Hall–Héroult process
, resulting in the final aluminium metal.

Aluminium production is highly energy-consuming, and so the producers tend to locate smelters in places where electric power is both plentiful and inexpensive.[134] Production of one kilogram of aluminium requires 7 kilograms of oil energy equivalent, as compared to 1.5 kilograms for steel and 2 kilograms for plastic.[135] As of 2019, the world's largest smelters of aluminium are located in China, India, Russia, Canada, and the United Arab Emirates,[133] while China is by far the top producer of aluminium with a world share of fifty-five percent.

According to the International Resource Panel's Metal Stocks in Society report, the global per capita stock of aluminium in use in society (i.e. in cars, buildings, electronics, etc.) is 80 kg (180 lb). Much of this is in more-developed countries (350–500 kg (770–1,100 lb) per capita) rather than less-developed countries (35 kg (77 lb) per capita).[136]

Bayer process

Bauxite is converted to alumina by the Bayer process. Bauxite is blended for uniform composition and then is ground. The resulting slurry is mixed with a hot solution of sodium hydroxide; the mixture is then treated in a digester vessel at a pressure well above atmospheric, dissolving the aluminium hydroxide in bauxite while converting impurities into relatively insoluble compounds:[137]

Al(OH)3 + Na+ + OH → Na+ + [Al(OH)4]

After this reaction, the slurry is at a temperature above its atmospheric boiling point. It is cooled by removing steam as pressure is reduced. The bauxite residue is separated from the solution and discarded. The solution, free of solids, is seeded with small crystals of aluminium hydroxide; this causes decomposition of the [Al(OH)4] ions to aluminium hydroxide. After about half of aluminium has precipitated, the mixture is sent to classifiers. Small crystals of aluminium hydroxide are collected to serve as seeding agents; coarse particles are converted to alumina by heating; the excess solution is removed by evaporation, (if needed) purified, and recycled.[137]

Hall–Héroult process

Extrusion billets of aluminium

The conversion of

alumina to aluminium metal is achieved by the Hall–Héroult process. In this energy-intensive process, a solution of alumina in a molten (950 and 980 °C (1,740 and 1,800 °F)) mixture of cryolite (Na3AlF6) with calcium fluoride is electrolyzed to produce metallic aluminium. The liquid aluminium metal sinks to the bottom of the solution and is tapped off, and usually cast into large blocks called aluminium billets for further processing.[42]

Anodes of the electrolysis cell are made of carbon—the most resistant material against fluoride corrosion—and either bake at the process or are prebaked. The former, also called Söderberg anodes, are less power-efficient and fumes released during baking are costly to collect, which is why they are being replaced by prebaked anodes even though they save the power, energy, and labor to prebake the cathodes. Carbon for anodes should be preferably pure so that neither aluminium nor the electrolyte is contaminated with ash. Despite carbon's resistivity against corrosion, it is still consumed at a rate of 0.4–0.5 kg per each kilogram of produced aluminium. Cathodes are made of anthracite; high purity for them is not required because impurities leach only very slowly. The cathode is consumed at a rate of 0.02–0.04 kg per each kilogram of produced aluminium. A cell is usually terminated after 2–6 years following a failure of the cathode.[42]

The Hall–Heroult process produces aluminium with a purity of above 99%. Further purification can be done by the Hoopes process. This process involves the electrolysis of molten aluminium with a sodium, barium, and aluminium fluoride electrolyte. The resulting aluminium has a purity of 99.99%.[42][138]

Electric power represents about 20 to 40% of the cost of producing aluminium, depending on the location of the smelter. Aluminium production consumes roughly 5% of electricity generated in the United States.[130] Because of this, alternatives to the Hall–Héroult process have been researched, but none has turned out to be economically feasible.[42]


Common bins for recyclable waste along with a bin for unrecyclable waste. The bin with a yellow top is labeled "aluminum". Rhodes, Greece.

Recovery of the metal through

beverage cans brought it to public awareness.[139] Recycling involves melting the scrap, a process that requires only 5% of the energy used to produce aluminium from ore, though a significant part (up to 15% of the input material) is lost as dross (ash-like oxide).[140] An aluminium stack melter produces significantly less dross, with values reported below 1%.[141]

White dross from primary aluminium production and from secondary recycling operations still contains useful quantities of aluminium that can be extracted industrially. The process produces aluminium billets, together with a highly complex waste material. This waste is difficult to manage. It reacts with water, releasing a mixture of gases (including, among others, hydrogen, acetylene, and ammonia), which spontaneously ignites on contact with air;[142] contact with damp air results in the release of copious quantities of ammonia gas. Despite these difficulties, the waste is used as a filler in asphalt and concrete.[143]


Aluminium-bodied Austin A40 Sports (c. 1951)


The global production of aluminium in 2016 was 58.8 million metric tons. It exceeded that of any other metal except iron (1,231 million metric tons).[144][145]

Aluminium is almost always alloyed, which markedly improves its mechanical properties, especially when

alloying agents are copper, zinc, magnesium, manganese, and silicon (e.g., duralumin) with the levels of other metals in a few percent by weight.[147] Aluminium, both wrought and cast, has been alloyed with: manganese, silicon, magnesium, copper and zinc among others.[148] For example, the Kynal family of alloys was developed by the British chemical manufacturer Imperial Chemical Industries

Aluminium can

The major uses for aluminium metal are in:[149]


The great majority (about 90%) of

refineries and to alkylate amines.[153][154] Many industrial catalysts are supported by alumina, meaning that the expensive catalyst material is dispersed over a surface of the inert alumina.[155] Another principal use is as a drying agent or absorbent.[137][156]

Laser deposition of alumina on a substrate

Several sulfates of aluminium have industrial and commercial application.

antiperspirants.[157] Sodium aluminate is used in treating water and as an accelerator of solidification of cement.[157]

Many aluminium compounds have niche applications, for example:


Schematic of aluminium absorption by human skin.[169]

Despite its widespread occurrence in the Earth's crust, aluminium has no known function in biology.[42] At pH 6–9 (relevant for most natural waters), aluminium precipitates out of water as the hydroxide and is hence not available; most elements behaving this way have no biological role or are toxic.[170] Aluminium sulfate has an LD50 of 6207 mg/kg (oral, mouse), which corresponds to 435 grams (about one pound) for a 70 kg (150 lb) person.[42]


Aluminium is classified as a non-carcinogen by the

crosslinking proteins, thus down-regulating genes in the superior temporal gyrus.[178]


Aluminium, although rarely, can cause vitamin D-resistant osteomalacia, erythropoietin-resistant microcytic anemia, and central nervous system alterations. People with kidney insufficiency are especially at a risk.[171] Chronic ingestion of hydrated aluminium silicates (for excess gastric acidity control) may result in aluminium binding to intestinal contents and increased elimination of other metals, such as iron or zinc; sufficiently high doses (>50 g/day) can cause anemia.[171]

transcellular; (3) active transport; (4) channels; (5) adsorptive or receptor-mediated endocytosis.[169]

During the 1988 Camelford water pollution incident people in Camelford had their drinking water contaminated with aluminium sulfate for several weeks. A final report into the incident in 2013 concluded it was unlikely that this had caused long-term health problems.[179]

Aluminium has been suspected of being a possible cause of Alzheimer's disease,[180] but research into this for over 40 years has found, as of 2018, no good evidence of causal effect.[181][182]

Aluminium increases estrogen-related gene expression in human breast cancer cells cultured in the laboratory.[183] In very high doses, aluminium is associated with altered function of the blood–brain barrier.[184] A small percentage of people[185] have contact allergies to aluminium and experience itchy red rashes, headache, muscle pain, joint pain, poor memory, insomnia, depression, asthma, irritable bowel syndrome, or other symptoms upon contact with products containing aluminium.[186]

Exposure to powdered aluminium or aluminium welding fumes can cause pulmonary fibrosis.[187] Fine aluminium powder can ignite or explode, posing another workplace hazard.[188][189]

Exposure routes

Food is the main source of aluminium. Drinking water contains more aluminium than solid food;[171] however, aluminium in food may be absorbed more than aluminium from water.[190] Major sources of human oral exposure to aluminium include food (due to its use in food additives, food and beverage packaging, and cooking utensils), drinking water (due to its use in municipal water treatment), and aluminium-containing medications (particularly antacid/antiulcer and buffered aspirin formulations).[191] Dietary exposure in Europeans averages to 0.2–1.5 mg/kg/week but can be as high as 2.3 mg/kg/week.[171] Higher exposure levels of aluminium are mostly limited to miners, aluminium production workers, and dialysis patients.[192]

Consumption of antacids, antiperspirants, vaccines, and cosmetics provide possible routes of exposure.[193] Consumption of acidic foods or liquids with aluminium enhances aluminium absorption,[194] and maltol has been shown to increase the accumulation of aluminium in nerve and bone tissues.[195]


In case of suspected sudden intake of a large amount of aluminium, the only treatment is

deferoxamine mesylate which may be given to help eliminate aluminium from the body by chelation.[196][197] However, this should be applied with caution as this reduces not only aluminium body levels, but also those of other metals such as copper or iron.[196]

Environmental effects

Bauxite tailings" storage facility in Stade, Germany. The aluminium industry generates about 70 million tons of this waste annually.

High levels of aluminium occur near mining sites; small amounts of aluminium are released to the environment at the coal-fired power plants or incinerators.[175] Aluminium in the air is washed out by the rain or normally settles down but small particles of aluminium remain in the air for a long time.[175]

Acidic precipitation is the main natural factor to mobilize aluminium from natural sources[171] and the main reason for the environmental effects of aluminium;[198] however, the main factor of presence of aluminium in salt and freshwater are the industrial processes that also release aluminium into air.[171]

In water, aluminium acts as a toxiс agent on gill-breathing animals such as fish when the water is acidic, in which aluminium may precipitate on gills,[199] which causes loss of plasma- and hemolymph ions leading to osmoregulatory failure.[198] Organic complexes of aluminium may be easily absorbed and interfere with metabolism in mammals and birds, even though this rarely happens in practice.[198]

Aluminium is primary among the factors that reduce plant growth on acidic soils. Although it is generally harmless to plant growth in pH-neutral soils, in acid soils the concentration of toxic Al3+

cations. Sorghum is believed to have the same tolerance mechanism.[204]

Aluminium production possesses its own challenges to the environment on each step of the production process. The major challenge is the greenhouse gas emissions.[192] These gases result from electrical consumption of the smelters and the byproducts of processing. The most potent of these gases are perfluorocarbons from the smelting process.[192] Released sulfur dioxide is one of the primary precursors of acid rain.[192]

Biodegradation of metallic aluminium is extremely rare; most aluminium-corroding organisms do not directly attack or consume the aluminium, but instead produce corrosive wastes.

Cladosporium resinae are commonly detected in aircraft fuel tanks that use kerosene-based fuels (not avgas), and laboratory cultures can degrade aluminium.[210]

See also


  1. ^ Davy's 1812 written usage of the word aluminum was predated by other authors' usage of aluminium. However, Davy is often mentioned as the person who named the element; he was the first to coin a name for aluminium: he used alumium in 1808. Other authors did not accept that name, choosing aluminium instead. See below for more details.
  2. ^ No elements with odd atomic numbers have more than two stable isotopes; even-numbered elements have multiple stable isotopes, with tin (element 50) having the highest number of stable isotopes of all elements, ten. The single exception is beryllium which is even-numbered but has only one stable isotope.[11] See Even and odd atomic nuclei for more details.
  3. ^ Most other metals have greater standard atomic weights: for instance, that of iron is 55.845; copper 63.546; lead 207.2.[3] which has consequences for the element's properties (see below)
  4. visible light and an excellent reflector (as much as 97%) of medium and far infrared radiation.[23]
  5. ^ In fact, aluminium's electropositive behavior, high affinity for oxygen, and highly negative standard electrode potential are all better aligned with those of scandium, yttrium, lanthanum, and actinium, which like aluminium have three valence electrons outside a noble gas core; this series shows continuous trends whereas those of group 13 is broken by the first added d-subshell in gallium and the resulting d-block contraction and the first added f-subshell in thallium and the resulting lanthanide contraction.[35]
  6. ^ These should not be considered as [AlF6]3− complex anions as the Al–F bonds are not significantly different in type from the other M–F bonds.[45]
  7. ^ Such differences in coordination between the fluorides and heavier halides are not unusual, occurring in SnIV and BiIII, for example; even bigger differences occur between CO2 and SiO2.[45]
  8. ^ Abundances in the source are listed relative to silicon rather than in per-particle notation. The sum of all elements per 106 parts of silicon is 2.6682×1010 parts; aluminium comprises 8.410×104 parts.
  9. ^ Compare annual statistics of aluminium[98] and copper[99] production by USGS.
  10. ^ The spelling alumine comes from French, whereas the spelling alumina comes from Latin.[113]
  11. ^ Davy discovered several other elements, including those he named sodium and potassium, after the English words soda and potash. Berzelius referred to them as to natrium and kalium. Berzelius's suggestion was expanded in 1814[120] with his proposed system of one or two-letter chemical symbols, which are used up to the present day; sodium and potassium have the symbols Na and K, respectively, after their Latin names.
  12. ^ Some European languages, like Spanish or Italian, use a different suffix from the Latin -um/-ium to form a name of a metal, some, like Polish or Czech, have a different base for the name of the element, and some, like Russian or Greek, do not use the Latin script altogether.
  13. ^ For instance, see the November–December 2013 issue of Chemistry International: in a table of (some) elements, the element is listed as "aluminium (aluminum)".[132]
  14. ^ While aluminium per se is not carcinogenic, Söderberg aluminium production is, as is noted by the International Agency for Research on Cancer,[172] likely due to exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.[173]


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Further reading

  • Mimi Sheller, Aluminum Dream: The Making of Light Modernity. Cambridge, Mass.: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press, 2014.

External links