Aluminum is an important commercial metal possessing some very unique properties. It is very light (density about 2.7) and some of its alloys are very strong, so its strength-weight ratio makes it very attractive for aeronautical uses and other applications in which weight saving is important.

Aluminum, especially in the pure form, has very high electrical and thermal conductivities and is used as an electrical conductor in heat exchangers, etc. Aluminum has good corrosion resistance, is nontoxic, and has a pleasing silvery-white color; these properties make it attractive for applications in the food and container industry, architectural, and general structural fields.

Aluminum is very ductile and easily formed by casting and mechanical forming methods. Aluminum owes its good resistance to atmospheric corrosion to the formation of a tough, tenacious, highly insulating, thin oxide film, in spite of the fact that the metal itself is very anodic to other metals.

In moist atmospheres, this protective oxide may not form, and some caution must be taken to maintain this film protection. Although aluminum can be joined by all welding processes, this same oxide film can interfere with the formation of good bonds during both fusion and resistance welding, and\ special fluxing and cleaning must accompany welding operations.

Commercially pure aluminum (99+%) is very weak and ductile: tensile strength of 90 Mpa (13,000 lb/in2), yield strength of 34.5 MPa (5000 lb/in2), and shearing strength of 62 MPa (9500 lb/in2). Extrapure grades (electrical conductor grade) are 99.7+% pure, and are even weaker, but have better conductivity.

Heat Treatment of Aluminum Alloys.
Alloys of the 1000, 3000, and 5000 series cannot be hardened by heat treatment. They can be hardened by cold working and are available in annealed (recrystallized) and cold-worked tempers.

The 5000 series alloys are the strongest non-heat-treatable alloys and are frequently used where welding is to be employed, since welding will generally destroy the effects of hardening heat treatment. The remaining wrought alloys can be hardened by controlled precipitation of alloy phases.

The precipitation is accomplished by first heating the alloy to dissolve the alloying elements, followed by quenching to retain the alloy in supersaturation. The alloys are then “aged” to develop a controlled size and distribution of precipitate that produces the desired level of hardening. Some alloys naturally age at room temperature; others must be artificially aged at elevated temperatures.

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