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History of Aluminum

April 07, 2016

History of Aluminum

History of Aluminum

Ancient Greeks and Romans used aluminium salts as dyeing mordants and as astringents for dressing wounds; alum is still used as a styptic. In 1782, Guyton de Morveau suggested calling the "base" of (i.e., the metallic element in) alum alumine. In 1808, Humphry Davy identified the existence of a metal base of alum, which he at first termed alumium and later aluminum.

The metal was first produced in 1825 in an impure form by Danish physicist and chemist Hans Christian Orsted. He reacted a hydrous aluminium chloride with potassium amalgam, yielding a lump of metal looking similar to tin. Friedrich Wöhler was aware of these experiments and cited them, but after redoing the experiments of Orsted he concluded that this metal was pure potassium. He conducted a similar experiment in 1827 by mixing anhydrous aluminium chloride with potassium and yielded aluminium. Wöhler is generally credited with isolating aluminium (Latin alumen, alum). Further, Pierre Berthier discovered aluminium in bauxite ore. Henri Etienne Sainte-Claire Deville improved Wöhler's method in 1846. As described in his 1859 book, aluminium trichloride could be reduced by sodium, which was more convenient and less expensive than potassium used by Wöhler. In the mid-1880s, aluminium metal was exceedingly difficult to produce, which made pure aluminium more valuable than gold. So celebrated was the metal that bars of aluminium were exhibited at the Exposition Universelle of 1855. Napoleon III of France is reputed to have held a banquet where the most honored guests were given aluminium utensils, while the others made do with gold.

Aluminum as it is call in the U.S. was selected as the material to use for the 100 ounces (2.8 kg) capstone of the Washington Monument in 1884, a time when one ounce (30 grams) cost the daily wage of a common worker on the project (in 1884 about $1 for 10 hours of labor; today, a construction worker in the US working on such a project might earn $25–$35 per hour and therefore around $300 in an equivalent single 10-hour day). The capstone, which was set in place on 6 December 1884 in an elaborate dedication ceremony, was the largest single piece of aluminum cast at the time.

 

Hall-Heroult Process: availability of cheap aluminium metal

Charles Martin Hall of Ohio in the U.S. and Paul Héroult of France  ndependently developed the Hall-Héroult electrolytic process that facilitated large-scale production of metallic aluminium. This process remains in use today. In 1888, with the financial backing of Alfred E. Hunt, the Pittsburgh Reduction Company started; today it is known as Alcoa. Héroult's process was in production by 1889 in Switzerland at Aluminium Industrie, now Alcan, and at British Aluminium, now Luxfer Group and Alcoa, by 1896 in Scotland.

By 1895, the metal was being used as a building material as far away as Sydney, Australia in the dome of the Chief Secretary's Building. In 1903 the Wright Brothers employed an aluminum based engine for their historic flight. In 1907 Robert Neher created aluminum foil on a roll.

With the explosive expansion of the airplane industry during World War I (1914–1917), major governments demanded large shipments of aluminum for light, strong airframes. They often subsidized factories and the necessary electrical supply systems.

Aluminum was showing up everywhere, from the 1st USSR satellite in 1957 to the first beer in an aluminum can in 1958 by Coors and Kaiser Aluminum. Aluminum cans were next introduced into mainstream America by Pepsi and Coca-Cola in 1967.

This now brings us to present day when an alternative to the heavy Carbon Steel Vacuum tank is a metal with 1/3 the density of steel and as long as you maintain a PH level from 4.0 to 9.0 it will maintain its own protective oxide layer. The fact that you can carry more product on the same portable restroom truck, septic truck or even in a slide-in that fits in you pick-up, makes a lot of sense.