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Elements for Kids

Aluminum

The element aluminum

  • Symbol: Al
  • Atomic Number: 13
  • Atomic Weight: 26.981
  • Classification: Post-transition Metal
  • Phase at Room Temperature: Solid
  • Density: 2.70 grams per cm cubed
  • Melting Point: 660.32°C, 1220.58°F
  • Boiling Point: 2519°C, 4566°F
  • Discovered by: Hans Orsted in 1825, first isolated by Friedrich Wohler in 1827
Aluminum is the second element in the thirteenth column of the periodic table. It is classified as a post-transition metal and a "poor metal". Aluminum atoms contain 13 electrons and 13 protons. There are 3 valence electrons in the outer shell.

Characteristics and Properties

In standard conditions aluminum is a fairly soft, strong, and lightweight metal. Its color is silvery-gray. Pure aluminum is a very reactive element and is rarely found on Earth in its free form.

Aluminum acts as an excellent conductor of electricity and heat, but is non-magnetic. When it is exposed to the air, a thin layer of aluminum oxide is formed on the surface of the metal. This prevents further corrosion and rusting.

Other important characteristics of aluminum include low density (which is only around three times that of water), ductility (which allows it to be stretched into a wire), and malleability (which means it can be easily formed into a thin sheet).

Where is aluminum found on Earth?

Aluminum is the third most abundant element and the most abundant metal found in the Earth's crust. It is generally found on Earth in minerals and compounds such as feldspar, beryl, cryolite, and turquoise.

Extracting aluminum from minerals, however, is very expensive. Fortunately, the ore bauxite contains large amounts of aluminum oxide. Modern processes allow for aluminum to be obtained from bauxite fairly cheaply allowing for the metal to be used in a number of applications.

How is aluminum used today?

Because of its abundance, low cost, and useful qualities, aluminum is used in thousands of products. It is often used as a metal because of its light weight.

Most aluminum metal used in industry is an alloy where aluminum is combined with other elements such as copper, zinc, silicon, and magnesium. Applications for aluminum alloys include soda cans, automobile parts, bicycles, aluminum foil, power lines, siding for houses, and even baseball bats.

Other applications for aluminum compounds includes aluminum sulfate (used for water treatment), aluminum oxide (used in various industrial processes), and aluminum chloride (used in refining petroleum).

How was it discovered?

Danish chemist Hans Christian Orsted first produced a metal he thought was aluminum in 1825 and suggested that it was a new element. Credit is also given to Friedrich Wohler for first isolating the element in 1827.

Where did aluminum get its name?

Aluminum gets its name from the mineral alum, which gets its name from the Latin word "alumen" meaning "bitter salt."

Isotopes

There are a number of aluminum isotopes, but only two occur naturally: aluminum-27 (stable) and aluminum-26 (radioactive). The vast majority of aluminum, over 99%, is aluminum-27.

Interesting Facts about Aluminum


More on the Elements and the Periodic Table

Elements
Periodic Table

Alkali Metals
Lithium
Sodium
Potassium

Alkaline Earth Metals
Beryllium
Magnesium
Calcium
Radium

Transition Metals
Scandium
Titanium
Vanadium
Chromium
Manganese
Iron
Cobalt
Nickel
Copper
Zinc
Silver
Platinum
Gold
Mercury
Post-transition Metals
Aluminum
Gallium
Tin
Lead

Metalloids
Boron
Silicon
Germanium
Arsenic

Nonmetals
Hydrogen
Carbon
Nitrogen
Oxygen
Phosphorus
Sulfur
Halogens
Fluorine
Chlorine
Iodine

Noble Gases
Helium
Neon
Argon

Lanthanides and Actinides
Uranium
Plutonium

More Chemistry Subjects

Matter
Atom
Molecules
Isotopes
Solids, Liquids, Gases
Melting and Boiling
Chemical Bonding
Chemical Reactions
Radioactivity and Radiation
Mixtures and Compounds
Naming Compounds
Mixtures
Separating Mixtures
Solutions
Acids and Bases
Crystals
Metals
Salts and Soaps
Water
Other
Glossary and Terms
Chemistry Lab Equipment
Organic Chemistry
Famous Chemists


Science >> Chemistry for Kids >> Periodic Table





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