Advances in Aluminum: New Twists on an Old Material (.PDF Download)

June 14, 2017
Advances in Aluminum: New Twists on an Old Material (.PDF Download)

Aluminum in its modern form has been around for more than a century. In the 1880s, it was considered more valuable than gold, particularly because it was difficult to produce in a pure form. Ever since what is considered the First Age of Aluminum, the metal has become an integral staple of our daily lives in some form or another—vehicles, aircraft, currency, and substrates for electronics such as LEDs are just a few of the examples.

While continuing to be the foundation of our infrastructure, the versatile metal has withstood the test of time, evolving for new and interesting applications ranging from oil and gas cleanup to lighter and faster trains. Its use continues to grow at almost an exponential rate, with the certainty that it will usher in the 21st century as the Second Age of Aluminum and go far beyond what Danish physicist/chemist Hans Christian Orsted could have envisioned when he first refined the metal back in 1825.

Space-Age Material

One of the new ways aluminum is being leveraged comes in the form of Surmet Corp.’s ALON Optical Ceramic, otherwise known as “transparent aluminum.” If that sounds familiar, it’s probably because the term was coined in the movie Star Trek: The Voyage Home. In this case, Surmet developed an aluminum-based ceramic strong enough to stop a .50-cal armor-piercing bullet at close range, yet is lighter and thinner than any bulletproof glass on the market.

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