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From: (Don Wilkins)
Newsgroups: rec.crafts.metalworking
Subject: Re: Aluminum..when was it first made?
Date: Mon, 25 Oct 1999 14:52:44 GMT

On 19 Oct 1999 03:40:29 GMT, (PLAlbrecht) wrote:

>>Metallic aluminum was, I believe known in that period at the French Court
>>it was more precious than diamonds, and was used for jewellery.
>>Perhaps Washington was introduced to it via 'Ole Ben Franklin.
>Hmm... let's try this again.
>Instead of Britannica, I'll try Handbook of Chemistry and Physics this time.
>"The ancient Greeks and Romans used _alum_ in medicine as an astringent, and as
>a mordant in dyeing. In 1761 de Morveau proposed the name _alumine_ for the
>base in alum, and Lavoisier in 1787 thought this to be the oxide of a still
>undiscovered metal. Woehler is generally credited with having isolated the
>metal in 1827, although an impure form was prepared by Oersted two years

My references deviate a bit here. Woehler did prepare Al metal but
only in pinhead sized pieces using potassium metal for the reduction.
I thought this was in the 1850s.

Sainte-Claire Deville substituted sodium for potassium and used the
double salt of aluminum chloride and sodium chloride. He produced
marble sized blobs. This process actually was used in production but
Deville refused to accept credit and insisted that Woehler should get
the credit.

> In 1807 Davy proposed the name _aluminium_ for the metal, undiscovered
>at that time, and later agreed to change it to _aluminum_.... In 1852, the
>price of aluminum was about $545 a pound, and just before Hall's discovery in
>1886, about $11. The price rapidly dropped to 30cents and has been as low as
>15cents per pound. "
>Also says the Hall-Heroult process I mentioned earlier is no longer used,
>replaced instead by the Bayer process using bauxite.

Just to add a little trivia and a minor correction concerning the
Bayer process.  Hall and Heroult developed the electrolytic process
almost simultaneously and supposedly independently. (Who knows if
there was any technical espionage at the time) Hall in the US and
Heroult in France.

The Bayer process using bauxite is a chemical process for extracting
pure alumina from bauxite. This is critical because in the
electrolytic process most metal impurities are more easily reduced
than aluminum and therefore would be contaminates in the final

Hall (and presumably Heroult) was aware of this problem and did use
pure alumina. The Bayer process provided an improved method to obtain
pure alumina from bauxite.

Once the pure alumina is obtained by the Bayer method the electrolytic
refining is the Hall process. Hall was 22 years old at the time and
his  process is essentially what is in use currently.

He is listed as a chemist, metallurgist, and manufacturer. I don't
know of anything else he did in the field of chemistry so perhaps at
22 years of age he was so enmeshed in the aluminum production that he
didn't have time for other activities. Quite an accomplishment for a
22 year old kid.

Lavoisier might have been more prominent  had he not had a
disagreement with some French politicians. He was executed in 1794 at
the age of 51 during the Reign of Terror.

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