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10 reasons why aluminium should be your next material of choice

10 reasons why aluminium should be your next material of choice

September 17, 2021

Material manufacturers should continuously strive for transparency regarding the carbon footprint of their products and how it is measured. At Hydro we believe this is a key step towards reaching sustainability goals.

Transparency also encourages us to inform about conceivably lesser-known truths, for instance, that a kilogram of aluminium can be produced with lower CO2 emissions than a kilogram of eggs or a pair of jeans. We are not telling you to stop eating eggs or to stop wearing your favorite jeans. Rather, we want to put carbon footprint of aluminium into a different perspective to show that it matters where and how aluminium is produced.

Comparison of kilo CO2 equivalents required to produce different products

Comparison of kilo CO2 equivalents required to produce different products
Sources: Hydro EPD's and internal analyses; Global average: IAI 2018; OWID; VOX; Expert(s) (Poore & Nemeck, 2018); LCA Analysis published by major apparel manufacturer


Of course, this is not a fair comparison since a kilogram of aluminium is not a product that can be used as such, meaning that there will be some additional carbon emissions in manufacturing and transport of the aluminium into a final product. However, our intension is to highlight the possibility of dramatically reducing the carbon impact of products by choosing materials wisely, and low carbon aluminium can be part of the solution. Furthermore, there is no question that sustainability should be top-of-mind for material users and producers, but it is also important that the material you choose have other benefits that meets your materialistic expectations.

Discover 10 essential facts about aluminium

 

Aluminium is everywhere

Number 1: Aluminium is everywhere

Its superior properties in strength, light weight and applicability make aluminium an excellent material for hundreds of everyday products. As the third-most abundant element in the earth's crust after oxygen and silicon, aluminium is a resource that will last for generations with today's consumption, and which can be found in everything around us. The cars we drive, the technology we use, the buildings in our cities, only to mention a few. 

 

The HYDRO Chair by Tom Dixon Studio and Hydro

Number 2: Aluminium is one of the lightest metals

The light weight of aluminium makes it easy-to-handle, which is a benefit to those working in factories and building sites. Because of the material's light weight, energy consumption during transportation and use of the product is drastically reduced making the material not just a versatile choice, but an economically viable one. The HYDRO chair by Tom Dixon and Hydro is a great example of how the material’s lightness can be utilized while still offering robust, esthetic, and sustainable qualities.

Green Furniture Concept.jpg

Number 3: Aluminium can be easily formed into other shapes

Its ability to be shaped, bent and punched provide endless opportunities for architects, designers, and engineers to create exactly what they envision. Aluminium is alloyed to enhance the metal’s properties for specific engineering structures and components where light weight or corrosion resistance is important. The stylish and practical bench made by Green Furniture Concept, using recycled aluminium from Hydro demonstrates the material’s malleability perfectly.

Brim Explorer

Number 4: Aluminium is stronger than you would think

Surely, a material that is light and malleable cannot be strong, right? Actually, aluminium can be almost, if not just as strong as steel, depending on the alloy, processing technique and product design. Because aluminium is approximately one-third the weight of steel, components may be made thicker and stronger while still reducing weight compared to other materials. Hydro offers aluminium solutions that can cope with aggressive environments and heavy structural loads. While most metals weaken at lower temperatures, aluminium becomes stronger

Battery cables for electric vehicles made from aluminium

Number 5: Aluminium has high conductivity

Its ability to function as an excellent conductor of heat and electricity opens a world of opportunities for aluminium in several industries, such as the electric vehicle industry, as well as on and offshore. aluminium is ideal for high-voltage applications since it does not have the ability to collect a magnetic charge. It is also ideal for producing computer bits and components that require the usage of magnetic fields. Furthermore, lightweight and cost-efficient battery cables made with aluminium are great examples of how well the material works as a conductor.

 

The Ocean Cleanup

Number 6: Aluminium has high corrosion resistance

Extremely durable in neutral and slightly acidic environments, aluminium copes well when exposed to many aggressive chemicals and performs much better than other metals when exposed to formic acid or ammonia (as a refrigerant). For instance, The Ocean Cleanup uses aluminium profiles from Hydro in their Interceptor, and due to the excellent corrosion resistance of aluminium, it proved to be the perfect material for an Interceptor operating in rivers around the world. 

 

Aluminium with different surface treatments

Number 7: Aluminium can have different appearances

The majority associate aluminium with the simplistic, silvery appearance, and might not be aware that the material can be treated to have considerably different looks. Surface treatment includes a variety of techniques than can regulate and enhance the finish of aluminium, providing several benefits for those who want to use aluminium in their projects but want to modify the looks. For instance, painting gives the user an unlimited selection of colors, whereas anodizing creates a dirt-repellent surface and improves corrosion resistance.

Crash management system in aluminium

Number 8: Aluminium offers excellent energy absorption

As mentioned, aluminium is one-third as dense as steel, which means you can have three times the thickness before you have the same weight as steel. Consequently, aluminium is an excellent material for crash management system design in cars and can offer high levels of energy absorption in, for instance, an accident. Aluminium’s ability to absorb energy is also ideal for other safety purposes, such as fire and blast resistance, bullet-proofing and burglary-resistant systems.

 

Aluminium is infinitely recyclable

Number 9: Aluminium is infinitely recyclable without loss of quality

Recycling aluminium saves approximately 100 million tonnes of CO2e each year, as it only requires 5% of the energy required to manufacture aluminium from raw materials. Aluminium is the perfect material for the circular economy due to its high durability and limitless application possibilities. To better understand the rapidity of recycling, take aluminium cans in Europe as an example, where 70% of all aluminium cans are recycled, and the used cans become new cans in less than 60 days. Understanding the importance of recycling, Hydro offers a brand of recycled aluminium made with a minimum of 75% recycled, post-consumer aluminium scrap. Hydro CIRCAL builds on the foundation that aluminium is infinitely recyclable, and by drastically reducing energy use in the production phase, Hydro proactively contributes to reducing climate change.

Use of hydro power to produce low-carbon aluminium

Number 10: Aluminium can be produced with a low CO2 footprint

The production of aluminium is energy intensive, but if the energy stems from renewable sources, the picture changes. Depending on the energy source, aluminium’s footprint can vary tenfold. By using renewable energy from wind, solar, and water, Hydro produces Hydro REDUXA low-carbon aluminium with a carbon footprint less than a quarter of the global average – less than 4 kg CO2 per kilo aluminium. More than 70% of Hydro's aluminium production is based on renewable energy sources. 
 

How you can benefit from this

The world we live in today moves rapidly in terms of development and inventions, consistently increasing the need for new materials to be able to produce and sustain for the current and future society. Presented above are some of aluminium’s advantages and superior qualities as a material. The materialistic qualities of aluminium should put aluminium high on customers’ watch-list, but we as many others have seen the need to offer more sustainable alternatives. Therefore, Hydro offers low carbon aluminium through the brands Hydro CIRCAL, Hydro REDUXA, and Hydro RESTORE. Not only do we offer low carbon aluminium, but through our tailor-made design service, Hydro EcoDesign, you can receive support in developing greener solutions that are ready for the circular economy.

View the 10 essential facts in reality

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