A hundred and thirty five years ago, Jules Verne had described aluminium, in his book 'From the Earth to the Moon' as White as silver…. and as light as glass…
With the turn of the 3rd millennium, aluminium is closing, approximately, 160 years of use, with roughly the past 100 years at an industrial level.
As a chemical element, aluminium is the 3rd most abundant element in the earth’s environment, after oxygen and silicon.
How can its delayed discovery be explained?
The answer lies in its chemical affinity with other elements.
Hence, aluminium exists everywhere in nature, but it is 'locked' in strong chemical bonds. However, its use (in certain forms), has been historically documented in Egypt and Babylon.
The Englishman Humphry Davy, in 1807 developed first the theory on the existence of aluminium, while Danish chemist, Hans Christian Oerstead, managed to isolate aluminium as an element.
In 1845, German chemist Friedrich Wöhler calculated the specific weight of aluminium and at the same time proved one of its greatest properties: its "unbearable" lightness.
Between 1855 and 1886, Frenchman Henri Sainte-Claire Deville demonstrated the first chemical method for producing aluminium which at the time was too expensive for industrialisation.
The breakthrough occurred in 1886 both in the United States and France, when the electrolytic method of producing aluminium from aluminium oxide (alumina) was invented.
American inventor Charles Martin Hall and Frenchman Paul Héroult paved the way for German chemist Karl Joseph Bayer, who in 1888 developed a cost effective method for producing alumina from bauxite.
Overnight the price of aluminium went from USD 18 to USD 4.5.
Aluminium’s industrial history was about to begin….