One look at the modern world and you could say that humanity has sort of an overreliance on aluminum. Of course, all this is for good reason. No other metal can match aluminum’s versatility — people use it in so many ways across so many domains, from applications in homes, transportation, industry, and commerce.
It strikes the perfect balance of applicable and abundant, being third among the most common elements on Earth, just below Oxygen and Silicon. Even with its ubiquity in most products people use every single day, a significant portion of the world’s manufactured aluminum and aluminum oxide go into processes that the average consumer never gets to see.
Professionals from Peak Finish mention aluminum’s incredible strength-to-weight ratio as the reason why companies use it in everything from soda cans to airplanes. They note that aluminum’s properties of being lightweight and durable makes it superior to other metals in many regards, not to mention its resistance to corrosion and the numerous advances in engineering that allow aluminum’s use in more effective ways.
High Voltage Versatility
Even in the electrical industry, aluminum dominates. Take power lines, for example; companies have deemed aluminum as the material of choice over copper, which is more conductive, simply because aluminum has such a low density. In fact, a pound of aluminum can conduct almost twice as much electricity as a pound of copper.
Aluminum has been used as a long-distance power line material since 1945, since it is far easier to suspend, costing power companies less in support structures despite lower conductivity. Another advantage aluminum has over copper is its higher ductility, meaning it is easier to draw into wires, lowering production costs even further. The industry practice of substituting copper for aluminum eventually spilled over to the manufacturing of consumer products, from light bulbs to television sets.
It is highly unlikely that humanity’s dependence on aluminum will wane any time soon. The number of applications people have for this abundant metal may even increase as technology progresses, which is why it is important to appreciate how lucky people are to have a planet brimming with such a versatile element.