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American Resources Policy Network
Promoting the development of American mineral resources.
  • Through the Gateway: Aluminum Alloys – Versatility On Steroids

    Last year, researchers developed a material “that’s as strong and light as titanium, another expensive material, but at just a tenth of the cost.” They were able to achieve this feat by tweaking Aluminum’s alloying properties at the nano level.

    Aluminum’s properties as a stand-alone metal already make it one of the most versatile materials in engineering and construction, and as engineering database Total Materia notes“a mere recital of its characteristics is impressive.”  It is lightweight, but extremely durable, has a high resistance to corrosion, boasts good electric and thermal conductivity, and reflects both heat and light. It is highly malleable, and can be treated with many different surface finishes.

    Add to that its alloying capabilities, which were first harnessed around 1911, and Aluminum’s versatility soars to new heights. The addition of other metals and minerals, including fellow Gateway Metals Copper and Zinc, but also Iron, Silicon, Magnesium or Manganese, to pure aluminum further enhanced its properties.   Multiple alloys make up America’s “favorite beverage container,” the aluminum can, but that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg – aluminum alloys are used in a wide range of industries today.

    Because of the wide range of alloying options, and with international designations becoming a mess with some countries merely assigning numbers in the order of their development, the uniform International Alloy Designation System (IADS), a designation system previously developed by the Aluminum Association of the United States, became the international standard for Aluminum alloy designation in the 1970s.  Based on this system, Aluminum alloys are assigned a four-digit number of which the first digit represents a general series or class, characterized by its main alloying elements.

    Some of the main categories of Aluminum alloys are “Commercially Pure Aluminum,” “Heat-Treatable Alloys,” and “Non-Heat Treatable Alloys,” but new alloy compositions continue to be developed.  According to the Aluminum Association, which has put together a great series of infographics on Aluminum alloys, the number of registered active compositions has grown to more than 530 from the 75 initially registered at the time of the classification system’s initial inception in 1954.

    AA-Infographic-Alloys-v5

    The development of a Titanium-like iron-aluminum alloy, which ultimately could be used in “everything from bicycles to airplanes” only underscores that Aluminum is more than tin foil and beverage cans. As materials sciences advance, we can expect the number of registered alloys to continue to grow, and we will be able to reap the benefits.

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  • Through the Gateway: Aluminum – Building Block of our Sustainable Future

    Probably one of the most important buzzwords of our time is “Sustainability.”  When thinking of the term, mining and industrial metals are probably not the first things that come to mind, but they are in fact integral components of our society’s move towards a greener, more sustainable energy future.  We have already outlined how Copper serves as a gateway to renewable energy in a recent post, but the same rationale applies to Aluminum.

    Because of its light weight, many car companies have turned to aluminum to be able to comply with government standards and meet consumer demands for increased fuel efficiency and reduced tailpipe emissions. The Automotive Science Group recently concluded that the Ford F-150’s Aluminum design was key to said truck’s “elevated performance, which not only reduces environmental burdens associated with raw material mining and processing, but with reduced vehicle weight, less power is required to physically move the vehicle.”  Particularly for heavy vehicles like pick-ups and SUVs, aluminum tends to be the material of choice, with analysts assuming that

    “aluminum’s share of the average automotive materials mix in the world is likely to reach 15-16% by 2025, up from approximately 9% in 2015, while the average aluminum content in cars in Europe and North America is expected to increase to 19-20% of the car’s curb weight, up from 10-11% in 2015.”

    The use of Aluminum-air batteries, which consume aluminum as fuel and are able to power electric vehicles for up to 1,000 miles, further contributes to increased fuel efficiency and emission reductions.

    In the building and construction industry, Aluminum was initially used for decorative purposes and structural strength and durability, but has since been recognized as one of the most sustainable materials available.  It is 100%  recyclable without loss of properties, and, properly coated, can reflect up to 95 percent of solar energy, thus reducing the need for cooling technologies significantly. As such, builders turn to aluminum to receive the coveted Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) green building certification.

    Meanwhile, the Aluminum industry itself has significantly reduced its carbon footprint.  According to the Aluminum Association, since the early 1990s, greenhouse gas emissions from primary production were cut by 37 percent, while those derived from secondary production were slashed by more than 50 percent.

    The Aluminum Association has put together a great set of infographics on the subject.  The International Aluminum Institute also hosts a campaign with many examples underscoring Aluminum’s role in the building, and transportation sectors worldwide.

    AA Transportation Infographic SemiFabLCA_FINAL_webready AA_B&C_InfographicFINAL_sm

    Last but not least, we should also acknowledge that Aluminum’s status as a Gateway Metal to the tech metals Gallium and Vanadium, both of which are critical to renewable energy in their own right, further underscores the metal’s contribution to our sustainable energy future.  We will explore both Gallium and Vanadium and their properties and applications in separate posts later this month.

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  • Through the Gateway: Aluminum – Versatile and Timely

    After showcasing our first Gateway Metal, Copper, and its co-products, it’s time to move on to our next Gateway Metal as part of our “Through the Gateway” informational campaign. Chances are, you used it this past weekend, during and/or after your 4th of July barbecue.  It is being featured as a part of a massive art installation currently hosted by [...]
  • Independence Day – A Time To Celebrate Our Freedom, Yet Be Mindful of Growing Dependencies

    It’s that time of the year again. We’re filling our shopping carts with food and drinks, making sure we have enough gas for the grill, and buying some fireworks. The 4th of July, and with that, Independence Day, has arrived. But our country’s 240th birthday is more than a good reason to throw a barbecue in honor [...]
  • Through The Gateway – We Have the Reserves, So Why Aren’t We A Copper Net Exporter?

    Over the past few weeks, we’ve taken you on a journey “Through the Gateway.” We have looked at some of the key properties and supply and demand picture for Copper, as well as Copper’s co-products Tellurium, Selenium, Rhenium and Molybdenum.* It has become abundantly clear that Copper is a critical mineral, not just as a stand-alone traditional mainstay metal, but also as a gateway to the (mostly) rare tech metals it [...]
  • Through the Gateway: Molybdenum – “The Most Important Element You Yave Never Heard Of?”

    A writer for Gizmodo has dubbed it the “most important element you have never heard of.”  Writes Esther Inglis-Arkell: “Molybdenum, with its 42 protons and 54 neutrons, sits right in the middle of the periodic table being completely ignored. It’s not useless. (…) It just doesn’t have that indefinable sexiness about it.” Inglis-Arkell explains Molybdenum’s biochemical relevance: Taken [...]
  • Through the Gateway: Rhenium – Rare and Sexy?

    It has helped make airline travel affordable. It helps keep us safe. And it may just be sexier than Salma Hayek – at least in the eyes of one observer.  We’re talking about Rhenium, yet another metal brought to us largely courtesy of Copper refinement.  A silvery white, metallic element, Rhenium, according to USGS, has “an extremely high [...]
  • Through the Gateway: Selenium – More Than Just a Dietary Supplement

    Chances are, you’ve heard of Selenium.  As a trace element, it is an essential mineral found in small amounts in the body, with antioxidant properties. It is also a much-used suite of tools to automate web browsers across many platforms — which is why weeding out our news alerts for stories relevant to ARPN followers can be time-consuming. [...]
  • Through the Gateway: Tellurium – A Rare Metal With Abundant Demand

    It may not have felt like it, but spring is here, and love is in the air (not just according to us, but also according to science). We’re here to help – and thought we’d share this gem of a pick-up line (available on T-shirts online): “You must be made of Copper and Tellurium, because you [...]
  • Through the Gateway: The Copper Gap That Needn’t Be

    Lately, web searches for “Copper” have seemed to turn up stories about the metal’s woes on the global commodity market on a daily basis.  Like many of its hard-rock commodity peers, Copper has seen its price decline over the past five years. However, there is good reason to believe that the self-corrective nature of commodity [...]

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