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Aluminium Once Cost More Than Gold

The metal that could only be made in large quantities when electricity became widely available was once valued more than gold. Eight per cent of the Earth's crust is made up of mineral aluminium such as potassium aluminium sulfate. This was used in times past for fire-proofing and tanning of leather.

Today, it is in baking powder and aftershave. The refinement into aluminum metal wasn't theorized until the late 19th century. Hans christian Oersted created the first sample of the metal in 1825. It was highly contaminated. Sodium was then used by Henri Saint-Claire Deville to produce more. In 1845 scientists found it to be extremely light in weight. By 1855 small ingots were made and its price skyrocketed. Indeed, Napoleon 111 valued his aluminium cutlery more the the gold alternative.

Electrolysis was the major breakthrough in the production of large quantities of aluminium. Bauxite was identified as the best and plentiful source material. The price fell 80 per cent almost immediately as it became the cheapest metal available. The price fall is notable: $US1,200 a kilo in 1852 to $US1.00 in the 20th century for the same amount.
Science by Ty Buchanan
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