A multi-use metal
with air, aluminum rapidly becomes covered with a tough, transparent layer
of aluminum oxide second only in hardness to a diamond that
resists further corrosion and does not tarnish or rust. "Eros,"
an aluminum statue designed by Sir Alfred Gilbert and first erected in
1893, has stood in Piccadilly Circus unaffected by the elements for more
than 100 years.
Aluminum as art
From furniture to fashion, artists embrace aluminum in their crafts. Musical
instrument makers, recognizing superior acoustic properties, use the metal
for sound boards and violin and piano strings. Austrian architect Otto
Wagner was among the first to use aluminum to accent modern buildings
such as Die Zeit (1903) and Postal Savings Bank (1904-06).
The property of conductivity
More than 90 percent of the power lines in the United States are made
of aluminum. In 1884, a 100-ounce cast aluminum pyramid was placed atop
the Washington monument as a lightning conductor. Also an excellent conductor
of heat, the metal is used in automobile radiators, cooling coils and
heat fins in baseboard and other heaters.
Metal on the move
Transportation is the largest sector of the aluminum market, as composites
replace heavier metals in fuel-efficient cars and trucks. The Wright Brothers
made the engine block of their 1903 flyer out of aluminum. Union Pacific
Railroad launched the first all-aluminum, high-speed train in 1934.
Aluminum alloys often replace steel, wood and other materials in structures
such as the Empire State Building. Pure aluminum is weaker than steel,
but aluminum combined with other elements can provide equal strength while
weighing 35 to 80 percent less.
More than 20 percent of the aluminum manufactured goes into packaging
and is continually reengineered to enhance products. The ubiquitous aluminum
can is more than 50 percent lighter than it was 20 years ago. About 100
billion aluminum beverage cans are produced annually in the United States99
percent of all beer cans and 97 percent of all soft drink cans. More than
half of each can is made from recycled aluminum, the most reused of all