Should we be recycling more alluminium in the future?

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Should  we be recycling more Aluminium in the future?

Main Ideas

Aluminium is identified for being the third most abundant element in the earth’s crust. Chemically, aluminium is the 13th element on the periodic table, its symbol is Al, and its heat capacity is 25ºC. Aluminium is a silvery and flexible member of the poor metal group of chemical elements. Its melting point is 660.32ºC and boiling point is 2519ºC. Not only that, but it is also a soft and lightweight metal with idyllic properties, is a tremendously reactive metal and is conductive. When it is exposed to air, aluminium rapidly produces a transparent layer of Aluminium Oxide, which is even more resistant to corrosion – due to the occurrence of passivity.

        The ancient Greeks and Romans to heal wounds used aluminium salt. Aluminium has only become considerably used since the 1900’s; even so, Sir Humphry Davy already established its existence in 1808. After Adolph Hitler’s rise to power, Germany became the world leader in aluminium production. Further on, Joseph Needham discovered that the Chinese used aluminium, back in 1974. Nowadays, aluminium is regularly used and is part of our daily life, and is extremely useful in the industries of construction of many products. It is very important to the world economy.

On the left there is a chart showing how much aluminium is being used, how much is being recycled and how much is being made annually from years 1950 – 1999. It shows that the total usage increases more and more as the years go by, showing a straight trend. The amount of how much aluminium being made is normal; it is increasing rapidly, but not too fast. However, the amount of aluminium recycled is increasing extremely slowly. This could be because since it takes quite a lot of times for people to begin to recycle and how year after year people are getting more and more educated about it.

        Because aluminium is very resistant and soft, most vehicles such as cars, boats, trains, planes, and spacecrafts are made of aluminium. Recently, aluminium has been playing an important role in the restoration of buildings. Since pure aluminium has such astounding characteristics and properties that I have mentioned above, it has materialistically caused “magical” changes in certain architectural and engineering methods. This shows us that aluminium is leading the world into a better future of construction.  

Nonetheless, there are many important issues that have arisen related to Aluminium.



The chart above shows statistics of which areas aluminium is used. Clearly, transportation is the area that uses most aluminium, with 26%. This is probably because there is a wide range of transportation, such as buses, cars, planes, bicycles, etc.


Around the world there are several bauxite deposits, and especially around tropical areas such as Africa, Australia, South America, India and the West Indies. Aluminium ore is usually found closer to the surface, so it can be gained through mines only 4 to 6 miles deep. Bauxite contains Fe2O3, SiO2, and many other impurities. We must remove all of these impurities in order to separate pure aluminium – this is called the Bayer process. The Bayer process consists of a methodology with hydroxide, or NaOH. The result of this technique is a solution of sodium aluminate and sodium silicate. At this stage, the iron is left as a solid. When the carbon dioxide is blowing throughout the solution, the sodium silicate remains while aluminium is let out as Aluminium Hydroxide. Hydroxide can be washed off or heated off to able to form pure alumina (Al2O3).

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        The following stage is the development into pure aluminium. The electrolytic cell in alumina has carbon anodes (where the carbon dioxide is formed) and a carbon cathode cell where the aluminium is made.

The aluminium made is heavier and thicker than the molten alumina, and sinks to the bottom of the cell. Pure aluminium can be used in different methods to produce several varieties of products.
Here is a diagram of electrolysis tank where both the cathode and the anode are formed out of graphite.        


Aluminium is a very grand recourse in our daily lives, considering ...

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