What is Aluminum?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Aluminum is an abundant metallic chemical element which is widely used throughout the world for a wide range of products. Many consumers interact with some form of it on a daily basis, especially if they are active in the kitchen. The element has an atomic number of 13, and it is identified with the symbol Al on the periodic table of elements. It is classified in the poor metals, sharing the property of extreme malleability with metals like tin and lead. The international standard spelling is aluminium.

Lining a broiling pan with aluminum foil can make cleanup easier.
Lining a broiling pan with aluminum foil can make cleanup easier.

The history of this element is actually quite old. Various forms have been used for centuries; aluminum oxides, for example, appear in pottery and glazes from Ancient Egypt. The Romans also used it, in the form of a substance they called alum. In the 1800s, Hans Christian Oersted isolated an impure form of the element, and he was followed by Friedrich Wohler, who succeeded in isolating the pure form in 1827.

Aluminum can.
Aluminum can.

At first, scientists believed this metal was extremely rare and difficult to extract, and the metal was at one point highly prized. Several sculptures from the 1800s illustrate this commonly held belief. In 1886, however, an American student named C.M. Hall and a Frenchman named Paul Herout developed a process for smelting ores to extract their valuable aluminum. The Hall-Heroult method is now extensively used throughout the world to isolate the element from ores such as bauxite.

Aluminum ladder.
Aluminum ladder.

Far from being rare, aluminum is in fact the third most common element in the Earth's crust, and it is the most common metallic element on Earth. In a pure form, it is silvery white and extremely lightweight. The element blends readily to make lightweight but very strong alloys, and it conducts both heat and electricity very well. In addition, it is non-magnetic, which can be a highly useful property in some applications. The myriad uses for the metal and its compounds include auto manufacture, construction, paints, packaging, cooking utensils, antacids, antiperspirants, and astringents.

Aluminum has an atomic number of 13, and it is identified with the symbol Al on the periodic table of elements.
Aluminum has an atomic number of 13, and it is identified with the symbol Al on the periodic table of elements.

While aluminum itself is not inherently toxic, there are some risky aspects to the element. People who work around high volumes of it can become ill, especially if they inhale the element. Children appear to be susceptible to this element, especially if their kidneys do not function well. It appears that it may also cause neuromuscular and skeletal problems, although the exact danger threshold is unknown. Studies of aluminum products has suggested that they are safe for most consumers, although some people may experience contact dermatitis when they handle products like pots, antiperspirants, and antacids.

Aluminum is increasingly being used in auto manufacturing.
Aluminum is increasingly being used in auto manufacturing.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

anon312783

What happens when aluminum and nickel are combined?

anon309066

Why is aluminum not used in its pure form to make pans, cans or airplanes?

anon285529

That is not aluminum - it's aluminum as per the periodic table of elements.

anon274241

The sunroom on my home has two walls of aluminum framing supporting the glass panels. Where the framing is in contact with the concrete floor, there is serious corrosion of the framing taking place in the form of a bubbling sticky jelly like white substance.

Can somebody tell me if I can treat it with something to stop the corrosion?

anon267170

Can anyone tell me if aluminum forms in the earth's crust or does it have to be created by man?

maggie332

Can the aluminum in deodorant cause breast cancer?

anon171142

Aluminum is taken out of a mined out from a substance called bo-oxide. it is mined out of it then is required a lot of energy to take out the impurities from aluminum.

anon166624

could someone tell me about this reaction, please"

Al(NO3)3.9H2O + C12H25SO4Na = ???

anon163127

Is aluminum made out of the actual element aluminum?

alexdude1324

I'm doing a science project on aluminum so if someone could tell me something about it.

anon154361

What does aluminum react with?

anon152104

Can someone please tell me what properties of aluminum allow it to be extracted. I need this for my chemistry exam. Please reply.

anon146129

stable aluminum is made by fusing magnesium and hydrogen in a large star or supernova.

anon130157

What is aluminum made from? I need it for a research paper!

anon128749

what are the raw materials of aluminum?

anon127264

Aluminum is an element so it cannot be made of other elements! An element is a chemical in its simplest form.

anon95723

i think this website is good for information but the grammar is appalling! You don't spell aluminum like this: "Aluminum" It's "Aluminum."

anon80881

Can aluminum be broken into liquid form? And what will one have to do to sustain that form?

anon73439

What are its properties?

anon72644

What is aluminum made from? i am doing an assignment on aluminum and need to know what it is made from. please write on the site what it is made from.

anon70858

What's aluminum made from? I have a six page exam and need know to revise.

anon70758

Do we have aluminum inside of us?

anon68526

Where can you find aluminum? Please, i need to know asap!

anon65596

aluminum is a mineral found on earth, then they add more minerals and chemicals.

anon65025

What are its properties?

anon64365

how is is made? give me the word like O = oxygen

anon62807

Where is aluminum found in nature? In what form is it found? How is it obtained in pure form? What commercial value does it have? What dangers are associated with its use? What are some of its properties? What are some of its useful compounds when combined with other elements? What is aluminum made of?

Need to know for a research paper due in five days!

anon52617

yes aluminum is in vaccines!

anon51939

what is it made of? what are the elements of aluminum?

anon50524

what is aluminum made out of in general?

anon50161

is aluminum in vaccine stabilizers?

anon49606

what is aluminum's commercial value?

anon48109

Airplanes are made from what kind of aluminum? And where can I find this kind of aluminum? Thanks

anon39907

This website is really good for assignments!

anon38716

Where is aluminum found in nature? In what form is it found? How is it obtained in pure form? What commercial value does it have? What dangers are associated with its use? What are some of its properties? What are some of its useful compounds when combined with other elements?

Please answer it now... It is really needed now... It is our research paper... it will be submitted on July 29,2009... So please!!!

anon38356

Where can aluminum be mined in New Zealand? I'm doing an assignment and need to know. thanks!

anon38112

what is added to the raw materials of aluminum to create finished materials?

anon34013

Does anyone know where to find aluminum?

anon33787

Where is Aluminum mined in Australia?

anon28890

to helpmenow,

no you r thinking of copper, copper goes a blue-green color and aluminum rusts.

anon28889

Where is aluminum mined in Australia?

anon28888

if you r doing an assignment on aluminum use this website! it's useful!

anon20046

To anon18687 Aluminum is just made from aluminum atoms. It can be made into drink cans, foil, hoses, and lots of other stuff

anon18687

Need to know what aluminum is made from and possibly a list of what it can be made into for an assignment - please help!!

anon17033

When will it burn? How does it react with water?

daltonchris

what kind of aluminm is used to make crysals??

anon12856

Name a mineral used to make aluminum.

anon12739

I need to know the source of the raw material and details of how this is initially treated, two major uses of the substance and two physical or chemical properties involved for each use.

Please reply asap, this is for an assignment. thanks!!!

helpmenow

why does aluminum sometimes have a greenish tint to it after a period of time?

anon9945

Hello, do any of you know where Aluminum ore is melted down in NZ?

Please...this is very important. An assignment from school

thanx

lamaestra

Aluminum is a chemical element - it is a mineral found in nature in combination with other minerals, but not actually "made from" anything.

lamaestra

Aluminum is a chemical element - it is a mineral found in nature in combination with other minerals.

anon5128

What is aluminum made from?? i am doing an assignment on aluminum and need to know what it is made from. please write on the site what it is made from.

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