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What is the history of aluminum?

Both in Greece and in Ancient Rome, alum, a double salt of aluminum and potassium, was used as a mordant in dry cleaners and as an astringent in medicine, a use that is still in force.

Friedrich Wöhler is generally credited with isolating aluminum in 1827. Even so, the metal was obtained, impure, two years earlier by the Danish physicist and chemist Hans Christian Ørsted. In 1807, Humphrey Davy proposed the name aluminum for this yet undiscovered metal, but later decided to change it to aluminum for consistency with most element names, which use the suffix -ium. From this they derived the current names in English and other languages.

When it was discovered, it was found that it was extremely difficult to separate it from the rocks of which it was a part, which is why for a time it was considered a precious metal, more expensive than gold. Aluminum bars were displayed alongside the crown jewels of France at the World's Fair in 1855 and Napoleon III was said to have commissioned a set of aluminum plates for his most illustrious guests. In 1884, aluminum was selected as the material to make the vertex of the Washington Monument, at a time when an ounce (30 grams) cost the equivalent of the daily salary of the workers involved in the project; it had the same value as silver.

However, with process improvements, prices continually fell until they collapsed in 1889 after a simple method of extracting the metal Aluminum was discovered. The invention of the Hall-Héroult process in 1886 made the process of extracting aluminum from the mineral cheaper, which, together with the Bayer process invented at the same time, allowed its use to be extended until it became common in many applications. Its industrial applications are relatively recent, occurring on an industrial scale since the late nineteenth century. This made it possible for aluminum to become a common and familiar metal. [4] By 1895 its use as a building material was so widespread that it had reached Sydney, Australia, where it was used in the dome of the Secretariat Building.

Currently the ordinary process for obtaining the metal consists of two stages, the obtaining of alumina by the Bayer process from bauxite, and subsequent electrolysis of the oxide to obtain aluminum.

The recovery of metal from scrap (recycling) was a known practice since the beginning of the 20th century. However, it is from the 1960s on when it becomes general, more for environmental reasons than strictly economic

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