Aluminum, also known as aluminium, is a metal that is known for its resistance to corrosion and its light weight. Aluminum is used in many industries to manufacture a large variety of products and is very important to the world economy.
What does it look, feel, taste, and smell like?
Aluminum is a soft, lightweight metal which usually has a dull silvery appearance. This dull appearance is caused by a thin layer of oxidation that forms quickly when the metal is exposed to air. Without this layer of oxidation, aluminum has a bright and clear silvery appearance.
How was it discovered?
Sometimes there can be disagreement about who discovered something, even when all the facts are known. Friedrich Wöhler is credited with isolating aluminum in 1827 by mixing anhydrous aluminum chloride with potassium. The metal, however, had indeed been produced for the first time two years earlier — but in an impure form — by the Danish physicist and chemist Hans Christian Ørsted. Therefore, Ørsted can also be listed as the discoverer of the metal.
Where did its name come from?
In 1807, Sir Humphrey Davy was trying to isolate aluminum from a mineral called alumina. He first called the metal alumium, but decided to call it aluminum in 1812.
Where is it found?
Aluminum is the most abundant metal in the Earth's crust, and the third most abundant element overall, after oxygen and silicon. But it is not found free in nature. The Bayer process is used to refine aluminum from bauxite (aluminum oxide), an aluminum ore.
What are its uses?
Aluminum has many uses. It is light and strong. Aluminum helps us get from place to place since it's a part of cars, trucks, airplanes, bicycles, rockets, and more.
Every morning you wake up and look in a mirror, the reflective backing is likely made from aluminum. The pots and pans your family uses to cook dinner may be made with aluminum. The utensils you eat your dinner with could be made with aluminum, along with the kitchen aluminum foil used to wrap up leftover food. Soda cans are also made from aluminum.
When aluminum is combined with Fe2O3 in the right quantity thermite can be made. Thermite burns very quickly and with extreme heat. Aluminum is one of the primary components of the fuel that propels rockets into space.
Is it dangerous?
Aluminum isn't dangerous. The metal is protected by a surface layer of aluminum oxide. This surface layer forms at once when the metal is exposed to air, and is very stable. So dishes, pots, and pans can be made of aluminum, and aluminum foil can be used for packing sensitive foods. However, acidic foods, such as tomatoes, can dissolve the surface oxide layer and some of the aluminum underneath. This isn't dangerous and doesn't compromise the strength of the aluminum object, but can lead to off tastes in the food, which is why it is usually not recommended to cook acidic foods in aluminum cookware.