Impact of Aluminum

Aluminum is a widely used material that contacts humans on a daily basis in the form of many different products and industries. Huge industries for aluminum are the automotive industry, can industry, and construction industry; aluminum is lighter and denser than steel allowing for lighter cars with more protection. The introduction of aluminum into the automotive industry has revolutionized the building of car frames to be safer for humans and also providing better fuel efficiency. Aluminum cans also improved upon the steel design because of its recyclability, allowing customers to use and recycle cans 100% of the time and within a couple weeks the can will be reused to make any number of aluminum products. This process of recycling will conserve energy in the production phase because recycled production requires 5% of the energy of raw production. Also, in the construction industry, the use of aluminum studs and framework allow for continuous recycle of broken or damaged materials, while also allowing for strong and lightweight frames. This allows for taller, lighter buildings and continued reuse of materials, reducing energy consumption upon recycled production.

Aluminum is a needed material in the human sphere, its versatility, strength, and recyclability makes it a great material for many industries, as mentioned above. Humans interact with this material on a daily basis with cars, soda cans, walls in buildings, mechanical pencils, computers, phones, etc… This material is in high demand across the world in many industries which illustrates its necessity in the human sphere. From lighter framework in cars to casing on phones, without aluminum many things we are accustomed to today would not be around or as efficient. With its light weight and recyclability, this material allows for many uses which increase its need among humans. With production occurring all around the world, the convenience of aluminum is also there. While China is the main extractor and producer of aluminum, there are many plants across the globe that produce aluminum and provide finish goods. With its usability and convenience, it is no wonder why aluminum is such a coveted material in so many industries.

Aluminum is very energy intensive during the primary production phase, this is when the raw material, bauxite, is turned into the finished product, aluminum. The Bayer process is the chemical process used in the production, this process requires copious amounts of energy which leads to greenhouse gas emissions from the coal fired power plants that provide most of the electricity. A way to lessen the impact of aluminum on the planet are to continue recycling the material. Recycled aluminum goes through the secondary production phase which by passes primary production since the material is already in the aluminum form. This secondary process is much less energy intensive, requiring only 5% of the energy used in primary production. This drastic decline in energy consumption will reduce emissions and help lessen the effect on the planet. In addition to recycling, continued improvement in renewable energy will also greatly lessen the effects on the planet. With the energy coming from renewable sources, the emissions from coal plants can be decreased.

With the continued growth of aluminum the impact on human life will continue to grow, contributing to the PAT factors. For population, aluminum can be used as a material to increase fuel efficiency and create safer cars. The increase in fuel efficiency will lead to mitigation of climate change and help the preservation of our planet and the human race. The increased safety will directly reduce death rates in car accidents, helping maintain and increase the population. For affluence, aluminum will increase the wealth of nations using and selling the material because of its high demand and ability of recyclability. With the high demand of aluminum, nations selling the material will make continuous profit on the production of aluminum. Along with its 100% recyclability, the energy consumption for secondary production is so much lower than primary production that the money saved using secondary production will help increase wealth. For technology, aluminum can be used to enhance technology through protection of cars, phones, etc… Increased strength and lighter frames for cars will provide room for innovation to continue to increase fuel efficiency. Protecting devices, such as phones, computers, and tablets, will help for the progress of new technology, with aluminum protection the durability will increase and allow for longer use. Aluminum is beneficial for all factors of PAT because of its versatility.

As mentioned earlier, the biggest concern with aluminum is the primary production energy consumption. With such high energy demands for primary consumption, the emissions greatly increases the carbon footprint of the material. China is a major location for aluminum extraction and production leading to greater emissions. The increase emissions leading to global warming and climate change which have adverse effects on the planet, animals, and society. Ways to combat the challenges faced are to increase production of renewable energy and continue recycling aluminum. With more renewable energy, the energy used in primary production will not lead to as much emission from coal plants. Also, continued recycling will reduce the energy used because of secondary productions lower energy requirements.



4 thoughts on “Impact of Aluminum

  1. Aluminum does seem to be a nice alternative to steel, given its light weight and reusability. I didn’t even realize it’s widespread use in cars, I thought that cars were mostly just steel and carbon fiber.

    Some things that I noticed was that you mentioned aluminum was denser than steel, when in actuality, steel is over twice as dense as aluminum, making it much heavier than aluminum.

    Also, you mentioned that aluminum is stronger than steel which I initially thought would be invalid, but after further research I have realized is not. The young’s modulus of steel (a measure of its ability to deform or elasticity) is over 2.5 times as large of that of Aluminum. This led me to believe Aluminum would be less practical, but the yield strength of both metals is approximately the same. This honestly blew my mind.

    I would have liked some more numbers in quantifying the different parts of the process of producing aluminum, that way I could easily see just how much energy is being consumed at each phase.


  2. John,

    I like the way this blog was set up. You explained the many uses of aluminum and why it is important, then you talked about the energy requirements, and you finished with a proposal on what we should do in order to use aluminum without greatly harming the planet. The energy requirements for aluminum seem to be very similar to my material, steel, so you gave me some insight about my own material.

    You mentioned that aluminum is being used in vehicles for safety reasons. Some people might be confused by this since they think steel is a stiffer material so it should be safer. I would’ve liked to see more information about this part of your blog.

    Overall, I thought it was very informative and well put together.


  3. I think you address some very important topics regarding steel vs. aluminum and the benefits of both. I think the use of aluminum in new technologies such as lighter weight phones, etc.

    I think in future blogs you elaborated on how aluminum is being used for more safety reasons (even though it’s lighter wright) it’d be interesting. Along with addressing how aluminum has been used for structures forever, but how it’s uses are altering and advancing. Also looking deeper into the amount of energy used to produce aluminum vs steel would help to prove which is the better material.


  4. This was an overall well-written article that addresses all the main points that concern the impact of aluminum. I agree that the recyclability of aluminum is key to its success and we, as humans, need to do a better job of taking advantage of this high recyclability.

    I know most of the recycling of aluminum comes from the industry but was there any statistics that you found concerning the breakdown of aluminum recycling into factions because that would have been an interesting graphic.

    Also, concerning the human sphere and day-to-day aluminum products, should there be more of an incentive to recycle aluminum? Another interesting piece of information would have been how much of consumed aluminum (i.e. cans, computers, phones, etc.) is actually recycled and if that could be raised (possibly by the aforementioned incentivizing). Once again, great article and very informative and aluminum seems like a material of the future, will be interesting to see how it affects our lives as it seems to be creeping in more and more to the human sphere.


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