If you asked the average person what the world would be like without Aluminium you would probably get a reply like “We'd just have to drink coke from a glass or plastic bottle, wouldn't we?”. This would technically be a correct answer, but the fact of the matter is aluminium has become such a widely used material that without it our lives would be vastly different.

It is interesting to think about how just 50 - 60 years ago aluminium was a relatively unheard of material, and its uses were very limited; despite it being one of the most abundant elements on Earth, and the single most common metal. The reason for this is that aluminium is a very reactive metal and is very difficult to revert back to its base form; so until recently aluminium was not viable for wide-spread, commercial use.

Although aluminium has been known about since the 1500s, it was not until 1825 that a German scientist discovered the means by which Bauxite (aluminium ore) could be refined; and it was not until the 1860s that a mildly efficient and cost-effective method was developed. It was not until the 1900's that the highly effective process we use today, Electrolysis, was developed to remove the aluminium from its ore, and it is because of this process that we are now able to realise aluminium's potential.

The Impact Of Aluminium On Our Lives

Aluminium is used in the manufacture of many day to day objects, from the foil you wrap your lunch in, to the can you drink your 7Up from, to the TVs Doctor Who plays on, to the car you drive to work, to the aeroplanes that fill our skies; so just imagine what impact it would have on our lives if any one of the aforementioned processes had not been discovered.

It is not realistic to say that without aluminium we would be without these things; we would still eat lunch, have a drink, go to work, go on holiday, etc, but how different would these experiences be? Would planes be able to fly as far with heavier parts? Would TVs be the same as they are now, or would they still be bulky and temperamental? Would our weekly shops be more expensive due to the different packagings? The changes may seem minor, but they soon add up.

Aluminium is used so widely because of two main things, its many beneficial qualities and its cost. For a material of its value, its price is incredibly low, and its affordability gives us the ability to benefit from its many, stunning attributes; and whilst it is reasonable to suggest that if aluminium was not available it would simply be supplanted by another material, it would undoubtedly be one less suited to the job. The use of an inferior material would have one of two possible effects, the cost of day to day living would be higher, or efficiency and effectiveness would be lower in the instances where aluminium would otherwise be used.

The recyclability of aluminium is another one of its endearing qualities, as it's not only easy and cheap to carry out, but it can be repeated over and over again without any degradation in the material's characteristics or visual appearance; which is something that cannot be said for a lot of other commonly recycled materials.

It is clear that in a world without aluminium, whilst we may have been able to live relatively similar lives, we would not have achieved as much as quickly, and we would not have a number of modern conveniences which we currently enjoy and take for granted. It is safe to say that if eras were still denoted by their most prevalent metal, as the Bronze Age and Iron Age were, then we would almost certainly be living in the Aluminium Age.

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