What are the Different Properties of Aluminum?
April 28, 2021
What are the different properties of aluminum?
- Good thermal and electrical conductivity
- Excellent reflectivity
The aluminum alloy has similarities with steel, brass, copper, titanium, or lead in many ways. As a versatile material, it can be cut, fabricated, and casted into a wide variety of shapes and forms. Due to its ease of manufacturing, it’s not surprising why many pre-fabricated aluminum parts have since found their way into such industries like manufacturing, construction, automotive-making, and the like. All of these have been made possible by a few key attractive aluminum properties like its lightweightness, thermal conductivity, reflectivity, malleability, corrosion-resistant, and many more.
Like all metals mentioned on this list, experience very little problems in coming up with different aluminum-based products. Read on to learn more about aluminum’s different properties and what makes it one of the most practical metals on the market.
Like beryllium, sodium, magnesium, potassium, and calcium, aluminum is an incredibly light material, with a specific weight that’s 33% lighter than steel. In particular, aluminum has a specific weight of 2.7 grams per cubic centimeter. This instantly reduces costs on using aluminum as a raw material for a variety of manufacturing processes. For example, using aluminum in the production of automotive components reduces deadweight and improves fuel energy consumption, while maximizing capacity.
Despite the low density, aluminum does not present any strength drawbacks, depending on where it has been applied. Different processing techniques like heat treatment, hot rolling, or cold forming can enhance the strength of the aluminum, while still retaining its low weight. Further, this metal can also be alloyed with other such metals or metalloids like magnesium, manganese, or silicone to create an aluminum material with a balanced mix of machinability and strength.
Good Thermal And Electrical Conductivity
Generally, metals are excellent conductors of heat and electricity, and aluminum is no exception to this. In metallurgy and chemistry, the number of valence electrons is what determines the element’s conductivity. For aluminum, this value sits at 3 — as a basepoint, having one (1) valence electron already makes the metal an almost-perfect conductor. But with three, this means that the electrons in aluminum are able to move more freely when a charge has been applied on the material.
Keeping these in mind, industries have looked to aluminum as the primary choice whenever electrical and thermal conductivity are concerned. A prime example is electrical power lines. Although the use of copper is also popular in such applications, the weight advantage of aluminum ultimately makes it the better option, especially in high-voltage and long-distance power transmission.
Despite being good at conducting heat, aluminum’s reflectivity makes it also ideal when used as reflectors. The material’s mirror-like surface is capable of redirecting heat away from an object. Likewise, the reflectivity values may vary from 92.6% to 99.4%, depending on the value of the wavelength.
Understanding aluminum’s reflectivity provides many opportunities for industries like construction. Some innovations aluminum coated roofing that is excellent at reflecting light away from the structure. This helps cool the building better, as well as, reducing the level of internal solar heat produced in the building’s interiors, thus creating a more comfortable environment for the occupants.
Most metals, especially those that are highly reactive or have a higher iron content, are more prone to corrosion. This is a destructive event caused when electrochemical reactions create oxidation on the surface of the material. However for aluminum, oxidation is considered beneficial, as the resulting layer of oxide prevents any further corrosion from taking place on the metal.
As a corrosion-resistance material, aluminum is excellent for use in outdoor structures, where the material is prone to the elements. Despite prolonged exposure to moisture, heat, debris, or other sources of potential damage, aluminum products will have a much lower rate of wear and tear and level of maintenance.
With these considerations, choosing aluminum for outdoor installations and furniture makes for a good choice. When you have aluminum windows, for example, they are much sturdier and require less upkeep compared to other materials. The sleek metallic finish is also advantageous for many homeowners, in achieving a contemporary or ultramodern effect for the home.
Like steel, aluminum is an infinitely recyclable material. Scrap aluminum parts such as tin cans or even foils can be brought to a mill or refinery plant where they are re-molten again into ingots, billets, or other prefinished casted products. These products can be used once again in manufacturing different aluminum goods — from tin cans, foils, window frames, pipes, tubes, and many more.
For all of its recyclability, aluminum does not lose any of its properties after it has already been reused and repurposed countless times. In the absence of other factors such as market value and availability, these factors can bring down the manufacturing cost and production for aluminum, to make the material widely-available.
Discussed in this article were just some of the many basic aluminum properties that you should know every time you’re working with this material. As a widely-used metal/alloy on the planet, aluminum products are known to be thermally conductive, reflective, recyclable, lightweight, and corrosion-resistant. These attributes open up many opportunities in creating innovative aluminum products for almost all industries.
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