How is Aluminum Used in the Real World?

This week in our “Comprehensive Guide to Aluminum,” we first need to clarify a vastly common misconception: that aluminum, earth’s most abundant metal, is found free in nature. Don’t be so fast to let our most precious metal’s plentitude fool you. Aluminum is the farthest thing from an earth-made metal. As we learned in our last post, it takes two common compounds, such as alum and potassium aluminum sulfate, to form aluminum. So, next time you are inclined to write off the hard work that goes into making enough aluminum for the entire world, think again.

Now let’s begin:

We have learned what aluminum is and about the history of aluminum. Today we are going to take a look at some of its many uses; it would take Lord of the Rings-sized book to explain every way it can be used.

Aluminum’s uses vary and fall into quite diverse categories. Some of its uses are not so obvious, while others are well known:

Packaging Uses:

First and foremost, we material handling geeks have to mention how important aluminum is in the warehousing business. Some of aluminum’s most common uses stem from material handling.

Aluminum keeps food clean; and as we know, almost all food is placed on a pallet and stored in a warehouse at some point in its life. Not to mention, that aluminum does not affect the taste or smell of food. This is partly because aluminum does not contain any toxic elements. The barrier properties in aluminum also protect pharmaceuticals and toiletries.

Also, aluminum is rather impermeable and has a very impressive resistance against corrosion. Warehouses need to be spick-and-span at all times. The last thing we should have to worry about is rust and corrosion.

Aluminum is also great in a warehouse because it is lightweight! This means sturdy, yet lighter pallets and machinery parts for pallet inverters, wrappers, and MORE!

Some items in a warehouse that contain aluminum:

  • Trays
  • Foils
  • Bottle caps
  • Two-wheeled dollies
  • Industrial fans
  • Ladders
  • Thermoses and containers
  • Utensil lids
  • Storage boxes
  • Pallets
  • Various machine parts

Household Uses:

Once again, aluminum is corrosion-resistant and long-lasting which is great for household items. More particularly, great for the household items we do not want to buy over and over again…

  • Door knobs
  • Window frames
  • Kitchen utensils
    • Pots and pants
    • Cookie sheets
    • Saucepans
    • Kettles
    • Foil
    • Toasters
    • Refrigerators
    • Cheese graters
  • Refrigerators
  • Sinks/faucets
  • Gates/fences
  • Soda cans
  • Mirrors
  • Canned foods, such as vegetables
  • Indoor and outdoor furniture
  • Golf clubs
  • Tennis balls

Construction Uses:

Since aluminum is such a versatile metal, it is ideal for construction uses. It can be cut, bonded, welded, tapered, and curved easily into various shapes and sizes.

  • Skylights
  • Bridges
  • Shutters
  • Ladders
  • Railings
  • Gutters
  • Staples
  • Nails
  • Rods
  • Doors
  • Stampings
  • Wiring
  • Bars
  • Tubing
  • Sheets
  • Pipes
  • Casting
  • Scraps

Cars and Transportation Uses:

Aluminum is vital in transportation because of its incredible weight-to-strength ratio. Although it is lightweight and requires less energy to move (which also improves fuel efficiency), it is extremely strong. The corrosion-resistance plays a helpful role here too, as it would be unsafe for any means of transportation to fall apart with passengers inside. Here are some examples of how aluminum is used in the transportation industry;

  • Aircraft components (more than 75% of an airplane’s weight is comprised of aluminum)
  • Spacecraft components
  • Boats and other sea vessels
  • Railway carriages
  • Car and truck parts
  • Transmissions
  • Hoods
  • Suspension components
  • Engine blocks
  • Bicycles
  • Wheels

Power Line Uses:

Aluminum’s lightweight factor makes it ideal for several sources of power lines. It may not be as conductive as copper, however, aluminum is preferred because of its low density. This means that a kilogram of aluminum conducts double the charge compared with copper of the same amount. Easier conductivity means we save energy and of course, money. Plus, copper cannot be drawn into wire nearly as easily. A few examples include:

  • Power lines, especially long-distance
  • Electrical lines/cables
  • Satellite dishes
  • Towers
  • Poles

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