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Chemical Elements

Aluminium

atomic number of aluminum, specific gravity of aluminum, Friedrich Wohler, Hans Christian Oersted, Paris Exposition

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Aluminum (in Canada and Europe, aluminium), symbol Al, the most abundant metallic element in Earth's crust. The atomic number of aluminum is 13; the element is in group 13 (IIIa) of the periodic table. The elementís name comes from the aluminum-containing compound alum, which was known in ancient times.

Hans Christian Oersted, a Danish chemist, first prepared impure aluminum in 1825, using a chemical process involving potassium amalgam. Between 1827 and 1845, Friedrich Wohler, a German chemist, improved Oersted's process by using metallic potassium. He was the first to measure the specific gravity of aluminum and show its lightness. In 1854 Henri Sainte-Claire Deville, in France, obtained the metal by reducing aluminum chloride with sodium. Aided by the financial backing of Napoleon III, Deville established a large-scale experimental plant and displayed pure aluminum at the Paris Exposition of 1855.

Production

In 1886 the world production of aluminum was less than 45 kg (less than 100 lb), and its price was more than $11 per kg (more than $5 per lb). In 1989, by contrast, the estimated world production of primary aluminum was 18 million metric tons and an estimated 4 million metric tons was produced in the United States alone, whereas the price of aluminum was less than $2 per kg. U.S. consumption, by major markets, consisted of containers and packaging, 31 percent; building and construction, 20 percent; transportation, 24 percent; electric equipment, 10 percent; consumer durables, 9 percent; and miscellaneous, 6 percent. In 1989, recycled aluminum accounted for over 20 percent of total aluminum consumption in the United States.

Contributors

Lewin, Seymour Z., M.S., Ph.D.

Professor of Chemistry, New York University.



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