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Bauxite - Alumina - Aluminium

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From Bauxite To An Aeroplane

Have you ever picked up your knife and fork ready to eat your dinner and just as you are about to take a mouthful a thought pops into your head; “How were these utensils made?” Or your child is building a spaceship and has just used a roll of tin foil and he asks, “Where does tin foil come from?” Enquiring minds will have thoughts come to them at the most peculiar times.

The Ugly Duckling

Aluminium is the metal used to create these objects but before it takes on the shape of our everyday objects it has to go through a process of transformation. You could liken the process to the age-old story of the ugly duckling that turns into the beautiful swan.

It begins with a sedimentary rock filled with minerals called Bauxite. An interesting fact about Bauxite is that the mineral components change according to where you find it and therefore the mineral identification will change from rock to rock. Thus it is not classified as a mineral but as a rock with minerals in it.

Besides being the main ore for aluminium, Bauxite is used in makeup, chemicals, cement, some building supplies and as an abrasive.

For more information, click here.

Time To Transform

As the ugly duckling goes through the process of transformation so too does Bauxite. Water is extracted out of the ore in the rock leaving a white powder called alumina - one of the feed stocks for aluminium metal. By combining electricity with the alumina and an electrolyte called cryolite it is split into molten aluminium metal and carbon-dioxide. Click here for a complete breakdown of the alumina process.

The Swan

Once the transformation process is completed aluminium metal is produced. Aluminium has a silvery to dull gray appearance and is quite pliable due to its lightness and softness. Aluminium is then used to create drinking cans, utensils, tin foil, foil packaging, power lines, and roofing and is a component to materials used in various industries like the construction and transportation industries; it is especially used in the manufacturing of aeroplanes.

Countries of Bauxite Production

Bauxite is found in abundance in Jamaica, Brazil, Surinam, Guinea, France, Hungary, and in the states of Alabama, Georgia, and Arkansas in the U.S.A. Their annual production levels are among the highest in the world with the major producers of bauxite being Guinea, Australia, Jamaica and Brazil.

Conclusion

With the variety of uses for aluminium, its abundant supply and recyclable attributes, this metal has been one of the greatest finds in man’s history.

If you would like to learn more about minerals and mining visit our Mining and Metals page.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

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