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The history of the aluminium

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Aluminium is a young material which has revolutionised our way of life in such a way that we wouldn’t be able to maintain it without it.

Aluminium is a chemical element abundant in the earth's crust, but is not found in its pure form. This metal is extracted from an ore called bauxite, through a number of processes. Giving its physical, chemical and mechanical properties aluminium is present in almost everything which surrounds us: planes, ships, cars, windows, wrapping, beverage cans, electrical wires, etc. But …how we got here?

History of the aluminium

   1782- Antoine Lavoisier, father of the modern chemistry, suspects that in the Earth’s crust abounds an oxide of an unknown metal.

   1808- Sir Humphrey Davy discovers aluminium as an element creating an alloy with iron. He names it “aluminium”

   1821- Pierre Berthier discovers bauxite, a mineral which contains a great amount of aluminium and he called it like that because of the region of Les Baux.

1825- Hans Christian Orsted is able to isolate aluminium as an amalgam with many impurities. Also he describes aluminium as an element with electromagnetic properties.

1827- Friedrich Wöhler improves the process by Oersted getting a very fine powder. He is able to determine aluminium density and lightness.

1855- Henry Sainte-Claire Deville obtains and presents the first ingot of 97% pure aluminium during the Universal Exhibition next to the French crown jewels. Its production was so expensive that aluminium was considered a very valuable metal.

1884- William Frishmuth places a 2,80 kg aluminium pyramid as a crowning feature of the Washington Monument. This meant the biggest pure aluminium object in history, being in that time the price of this metal similar to the price of gold and silver.

1886- Charles Martin Hall y Paul L.T. Héroult discovers separately and almost simultaneously an economically viable electrolytic process to obtain aluminium from  alumina.

   1889- Karl Josef Bayer finds a procedure to extract alumina from bauxite. As a result, aluminium prices start decreasing drastically and the first applications appear.    

   1960- Aluminium was recycled for the first time, because the recycling cost is 95% lower than its extraction from bauxite. That’s why aluminium cycle of life is round.

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