Aluminum

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From Rare to Cheap

When Aluminum was first discovered it was more rare than gold. This is because we did not have an efficient way to extract aluminum from the ore. Napoleon III, the first President of the French Republic, served his state dinners on aluminum plates.

The irony is that aluminum is the most common metal on earth. Today we can extract aluminum so efficiently that aluminum is almost worthless. We often cover food with it and then just discard it when we are done with it.

Refining via Bayer Process

This involves multiple steps:

1. Sodium Hydroxide

Explore Sodium Hydroxide

Refining viaHall–Héroult Process

Explore Electricity