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Aluminium – A remarkable metal becoming even more remarkable

Aluminium. It’s an astonishing substance, and as aluminium suppliers we see an awful lot of it. Excitingly, new developments in the metals sector are seeing it scale new heights of usefulness and practicality. Here’s our December aluminium special.

An exciting new process produces small-scale aluminium ingots from scrap.

According to the Aluminium Insider website, a scientist from India has developed a brand new process for small-scale aluminium ingot production using recycled scrap. The new method allows small producers to make graded-quality aluminium ingots with special metallurgical and mechanical properties, removing impurities, improving its characteristics, and enhancing its quality.

The recycling method apparently involves ‘adding of alloying elements such as magnesium, manganese, zinc, chromium, boron, zirconium and strontium, which will enhance the metal’s properties’, and removing impurities like tin, lead, and iron from the scrap. It works thanks to a clever sedimentation and filtration method designed to remove impurities The sedimentation part takes place in the furnace itself, and the filtration technique is contained within the dye, removing impurities from the molten metal.

Right now only large aluminium plants can produce the quality ingots needed for casting. Soon small plants may be able to join in, and it doesn’t mean investing in expensive infrastructure, and the process cuts aluminium production costs as much as 30%.

Viable battery storage takes a leap

The Renew Economy website reports that the quest for decent lithium battery storage alternatives has taken another step forward as researchers reveal rechargeable aluminium-ion batteries set to revolutionise renewable energy storage. Dr Dong Jun Kim, then at Northwestern University in Illinois, headed the team, and the research was published recently in Nature Energy magazine.

Aluminium-ion batteries are the best we’ve got right now, but their storage capacity isn’t that great. The research looked into faster recharging times, tackling thermal runaway and battery life issues, and achieving lower costs.

Aluminium is the third most abundant element on the planet and also happens to have one of the highest ‘theoretical volumetric capacities’, simply because it features several redox states. Dr Kim’s team has found a reliable way to design rechargeable aluminium batteries ‘using a redox-active macrocyclic compound as the active material’. They’re harnessing a complex organic chemical compound to store the actual energy, and that marks a brand new approach to designing aluminium-ion batteries.

It matters when the lithium we’ve used to powered the digital revolution will eventually run out. At the same time the need for batteries to store renewable energy is extremely pressing, with many experts giving the human race only 12 years to change our wicked ways before climate change begins to bite. Demand for alternatives to lithium-ion is growing fast. But there are technical issues. It’s no good creating a high capacity battery that’s likely to explode or catch fire. And the recharging side of things is equally important. We need batteries that recharge fast and efficiently in minutes, but stash enough power to last for days. Ideally the alternative has to be cheaper than Lithium-ion batteries as well.

For the time being al-ion is unlikely to unseat li-ion. It’s early days and there are plenty of improvements to make. So far the new method doesn’t compare that well against the lithium-ion battery. But the signs are looking good.

Chocolate Santas and aluminium

It’s the festive season, the time of year when more than 150 million chocolate Santa Clauses are created for sale across the world. Say you need an average of 0.025 square meters of printed aluminium foil per Santa. That’s over 3,750,000 square metres of foil. The method for wrapping chocolate figures in foil dates back 100 years, winding the metal foil incredibly closely around the chocolate like a skin and revealing the design details in all their glory.

Why aluminium foil? It delivers 100% protection from the light, which can affect the colour of chocolate and create a white bloom, and it keeps the surface safe from other outside influences that might harm the quality. In Germany the average recycling rate for aluminium packaging is 87%, so they get rid of their Santa wrappers responsibly most of the time, sending them for recycling. If you’re treating yourself to chocolate Santas this year and aluminium is recycled in your area, don’t forget to save the wrapping for the recycling van.

Happy Xmas from your aluminium sheet suppliers UK – See you in 2019

We’ll raise a glass to you, our customers over Christmas, and we hope to see you in the new year. May 2019 be more profitable and enjoyable than ever!

Please complete the enquiry form located on this page, call +44 (0) 330 223 2653 or email us to discover how we could be supplying you with premium metal products and professional metal processing services.

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