A soft, silvery-white, corrosion resistant metal. It is the most abundant metal in the earth’s crust as it makes up 8% of the crust and it is the third most abundant element after oxygen and silicon. Bauxite ore (Al2O3.xH2O) is the major source of aluminium till date which is a mixture of hydrated aluminium oxide.
Aluminium can also be recovered from cryolite (Na3AlF6) and alunite. It is also found in gemstones such as garnet, topaz and chrysoberyl. The chemical symbol of this metal is Al. In the boron group with symbol Al, aluminium is a chemical element and is the most commonly used non-ferrous metal.
Bauxite is the name given to aluminium ore. To generate aluminium oxide, bauxite is purified, a white powder from which aluminium can be extracted. Aluminium oxide has a very high melting point more than 2000 ° C so melting it would be costly. Aluminium oxide in water does not dissolve, but in molten cryolite, it dissolves.
Pure aluminium is a silver-white metal with many desirable features. It’s light, non-toxic, non-magnetic, and non-sparking. It’s a bit ornamental. It’s created, machined, and cast readily. Pure aluminium is soft and lacks strength, but it has very helpful characteristics for alloys with tiny quantities of copper, magnesium, silicon, manganese and other components.
The Hall-Heroult process is widely used in the extraction of aluminium. In Hall-Heroults process, pure Al2O3 is mixed with CaF2 or Na3AlF6. This results in lowering of the melting point of the mixture and increases its ability to conduct electricity. A steel vessel with the lining of carbon and graphite rods is used.
The carbon lining acts as cathode and graphite act as an anode. When electricity is passed through the electrolytic cell which consists of carbon electrodes oxygen is formed at the anode. This oxygen formed reacts with the carbon of the anode to form carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. In this method of production of aluminium for every 1 kg of Al produced, approximately 0.5 Kg of carbon anode is burnt.
Aluminium ions are created at the adverse cathode from the aluminium oxide and then sink down because they are heavier than the cryolite solution. Then, the liquid shape of the aluminium that has sunk to the bottom. On the other side, at the positive anode, the oxygen from the aluminium oxide forms and responds to carbon dioxide CO2 with the graphite carbon.
The overall reaction is:
2Al2O3 + 3C → 4Al + 3CO2
The electrolytic reactions are:
At the cathode:
Al 3+ + 3e– → Al (l)
At the anode:
C (s) + O2- → CO (g) + 2e–
C (s) + 2O2- → CO2 (g) + 4e–
During the process of electrolysis,
- Aluminium ions that are positively loaded gain electrons from the cathode and form molten aluminium.
- Oxide ions lose anode electrons and form molecules of oxygen
In the electrochemical sequence means reactivity series, aluminium is too big to be removed from its ore by carbon reduction. The required temperatures are too high to be economical.
The list of uses of aluminium is given below.
- Aluminium is used in a wide range of applications in the field of transport, construction etc.
- Aluminium foils are used in the food industries for wrapping of food.
- The dust of this metal is used in paints.
- It is used in the extraction of manganese and chromium from its oxides.
- As it is a soft metal and it can be moulded into any shape it is used in the manufacturing of storage cans.
- Aluminium after iron is the most commonly used metal.
- It is mostly used with another metal in an alloy, meaning that it is blended with another metal to create another compound with some desirable characteristics-like stainless steel.
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