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Aluminum is a light silvery-white metal that's found in the major Group 13 of the periodic table, the boron group. It has many desirable properties, including nonmagnetic and nonsparking, and is one of the most versatile metals in existence.
Aluminium is a soft, lightweight metal with an oxide film that protects it from corrosion. It's also very durable, and it forms alloys with practically all other metals.
Bauxite: The main raw material in aluminium production
It's a clay mineral that contains modifications of aluminium hydroxide mixed with iron, silicon, titanium, sulphur, gallium, chromium, vanadium oxides and some other minerals. On average 4-5 tonnes of bauxite are needed to produce one tonne of aluminium.
Smelting: The process of extracting aluminium from bauxite
Once the bauxite has been mined, it's sent to a large facility called a smelter. Inside the smelters are rows of hundreds of reduction cells, which use power to turn the alumina into molten aluminium oxide and aluminium metal.
The process of smelting requires massive amounts of electricity and is very costly to run. It's the most expensive way of producing the metal, but it's also the only method that can be automated and produces large quantities of aluminium.
When the molten aluminium oxide has been extracted from the bauxite, it's used in a number of applications. For example, it's a key ingredient in aerosol cans and is also used to produce household products such as aluminium foil. It's also a valuable metal in the manufacture of electrical equipment, such as motors and generators.