50 years ago aluminium was a relatively young material, which was hardly known of by the general populace; despite being the planets most abundant metal, and the third most common element in the earth's crust. The reason for its late rise to prominence is that until the turn of the 20th century, it was all but impossible to extract it from its ore, Bauxite.
The difficulty arose from the fact that aluminium in it's native form is highly reactive, and will form strong bonds with other elements easily; making them difficult to separate. The way that we refine aluminium currently is through a process called Electrolysis; which requires taking aluminium oxide, dissolving it and passing direct current through it until the oxygen is removed and the two are separated.
Since learning how to refine bauxite, the properties of aluminium were researched and found to be high in quantity and quality. This has lead to it replacing a number of materials that were fulfilling functions to which aluminium is better suited, roles such as packaging, construction, power cables, transportation manufacturing, infrastructure, paints, and many more.
High reactivity: Like iron, aluminium reacts with oxygen to form aluminium oxides. Unlike the product of iron's oxidation (rust) however, aluminium's can be very useful; even going so far as to provide any aluminium surface with a thin corrosion-resistant layer. The ease with which aluminium reacts also allows it to be used to create a large number of alloys, further extending its usefulness.
Lightweight: Aluminium is a third as dense and stiff as steel, but also three times lighter. So whilst it may not be as sturdy as steel, it is still considerably strong, which when coupled with its lightweight properties has allowed it to be used effectively as packagings and in the manufacturing of vehicles, including cars, trains, aeroplanes and aquatic transportation. It is even used in the creating of aerospace vehicles and technology.
Electrical conductivity: As a non-magnetic metal, aluminium is perfect in roles that require the use of high voltages. It also allows aluminium to be used well in the creating of new electronic technologies. Aluminium is twice as conductive as copper.
100% recyclable: Aluminium products can be recycled over and over again without any deterioration in its quality, features or structural integrity. The process is also very efficient with it theoretically taking as little as 2 months from the moment that an aluminium can is filled, to it having been drank, recycled and back on the shelves as another can again.
Exceedingly malleable: Pure aluminium is relatively soft, making it easy to machine and cast; allowing it to be used in the creation of any number of shapes and structures. Aluminium does not spark when machined, and it can be effectively finished with paints and other types of coating.
In addition to these properties, aluminium is also capable of conducting impressively high temperatures; whilst its tensile strength, which is impressive, improves as the material gets colder. Finally, when aluminium is used to create shapes, it can be achieved using a single extruded section, making joining the material mechanically unnecessary; improving the integrity of the piece's strength and durability.