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Uses of Aluminum, Copper, Zinc and Iron

  • Last Updated : 30 Dec, 2021

The earth’s crust is abundant in minerals and ores. Some ores have proven to be a valuable resource for humanity. Iron, for example, derived from iron ore (Hematite), laid the groundwork for the industrial revolution. Aluminum, on the other hand, was a critical strategic resource for aviation during World War I and World War II. Despite this, aluminum metal continues to dominate the market due to its unique features and fast and cost-effective extraction. Metals account for 70% of all naturally occurring elements. Metals can be found in both free and mixed forms in nature. In general, reactive metals exist in mixed states as oxides, sulfides, carbonates, and so on. Metals in the center of the reactivity series, such as zinc, iron, and lead, are moderately reactive and are found in the earth’s crust as oxides, sulfides, carbonates, and so on.

Aluminum

Aluminum, with the atomic number 13 and the symbol Al, is a chemical element. Aluminum has a lower density than most common metals, about one-third that of steel. When exposed to air, it creates a protective coating of oxide on the surface due to its high affinity for oxygen. Aluminum mimics silver in appearance, both in color and in its ability to reflect light. It is pliable, nonmagnetic, and ductile.

Aluminum Properties

  1. Pure aluminum (99.996%) is soft and weak; commercial aluminum (99 to 99.6% pure) with trace levels of silicon and iron is hard and strong.
  2. Aluminum is a ductile and extremely malleable metal that can be pulled into wire or rolled into thin foil.
  3. The metal is only one-third the density of iron or copper.
  4. Despite being chemically active, aluminum is highly corrosion-resistant due to the formation of a thick, strong oxide film on its surface in air.
  5. Aluminum is an excellent heat and electrical conductor.
  6. It has about half the thermal conductivity of copper and about two-thirds the electrical conductivity.
  7. It crystallizes in a face-centered cubic form.
  8. All-natural aluminum has a stable isotope called aluminum-27.
  9. Metallic aluminum, as well as its oxide and hydroxide, is harmless.

Uses of Aluminum

  1. Aluminum is added in modest amounts to certain metals to improve their qualities for specific uses, such as aluminum bronzes and most magnesium-base alloys, or significant amounts of other metals and silicon are added to aluminum in aluminum-base alloys.
  2. The metal and its alloys are widely utilized in the manufacture of airplanes, building materials, consumer durables (refrigerators, air conditioners, kitchen utensils), electrical conductors, and chemical and food-processing equipment.
  3. Coils, cans, foils, and other wrapping materials are often made of aluminum in the packaging industry.
  4. It is also found in numerous everyday products as kitchenware and timepieces.
  5. Aluminum is used in the building industry to make doors, windows, cables, and roofing.
  6. It is utilized in the transportation industry to make bicycles, spacecraft, vehicle bodywork, aircraft, and marine equipment.
  7. Many coins are composed of alloys containing aluminum.
  8. Aluminum is also used in the manufacture of paints, reflecting surfaces, and wires.

Copper

Copper has the atomic number 29 and the chemical symbol Cu. It’s a ductile, soft, malleable metal with good thermal and electrical conductivity. The color of freshly exposed pure copper is pinkish-orange.

Copper Properties

  1. Copper is one of the most ductile metals, meaning it is not very strong or hard.
  2. Cold-working significantly increases strength and hardness due to the production of elongated crystals with the same face-centered cubic structure as softer annealed copper.
  3. In molten copper, oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and sulfur dioxide are all soluble and affect the mechanical and electrical properties of the solidified metal.
  4. In terms of thermal and electrical conductivity, pure metal is only second to silver.
  5. Natural copper is composed of two stable isotopes: copper-63 and copper-65.

Uses of Copper

  1. Copper is used as a heat and electricity conductor, a building material, and a component of various metal alloys, including sterling silver in jewelry, cupronickel in maritime hardware and coins, and constantan in strain gauges and temperature sensors.
  2. The majority of copper produced in the world is utilized in the electrical industry, with the rest being mixed with other metals to form alloys. (In terms of technology, and electroplated coating is also essential.)
  3. Brasses (copper and zinc), bronzes (copper and tin), and nickel silvers are important series of alloys in which copper is the main element (copper, zinc, and nickel, no silver).
  4. There are numerous useful copper and nickel alloys, notably Monel; the two metals are entirely miscible.
  5. Copper also has a significant sequence of alloys with aluminum known as aluminum bronzes.
  6. Beryllium copper (2% Be) is a unique copper alloy in that it may be toughened through heat treatment.
  7. Copper can be found in a number of different coinage metals.

Zinc

Zinc is a chemical element with the atomic number 30 and the symbol Zn. Zinc is a relatively brittle metal at normal temperature, with a silvery-greyish appearance when oxidation is removed. It is the first element in group 12 of the periodic table (IIB). Zinc is chemically similar to magnesium in some ways: both elements have only one normal oxidation state (+2). Zinc is the twenty-fourth most prevalent element in the Earth’s crust, with five stable isotopes.

Zinc properties 

  1. Zinc is a bluish-white, glossy, diamagnetic metal, albeit the majority of commercial grades have a dull finish.
  2. It has a hexagonal crystal structure with a distorted sort of hexagonal close packing, with each atom having six nearest neighbors on its own plane (at 265.9 pm) and six more at a greater distance of 290.6 pm.

Uses of Zinc

  1. Zinc metal is largely utilized in the corrosion protection of iron and steel, as well as the production of brasses and alloys for die-casting.
  2. When exposed to air, zinc creates an impermeable covering of its oxide, making the metal more resistant to typical atmospheres than iron and corroding at a far lower rate.
  3. Furthermore, because zinc oxidizes faster than iron, the steel surface is protected, even if some of it is exposed through fissures. Either hot-dip galvanizing or electro galvanizing is used to create the zinc coating.
  4. The surface of freshly cast zinc is bluish silver, which progressively oxidizes in the air to form a greyish protective oxide layer.
  5. The so-called prime western grade (99.8% pure) is brittle when cold but maybe rolled into flexible sheets at 100°C. Highly pure zinc (99.99 percent pure) is ductile.
  6. The hexagonal close-packed structure of zinc crystallizes.
  7. When iron and zinc are exposed to a corrosive liquid together, they form an electrolytic cell, with zinc being damaged preferentially due to its greater electrode potential.
  8. This so-called sacrificial protection, along with zinc’s substantially stronger corrosion resistance under air circumstances, serves as the foundation for galvanizing.

Iron

The chemical symbol for iron is Fe, and the atomic number is 26. It belongs to the first transition series and group 8 of the periodic table. It is the most abundant element on Earth in terms of mass, just ahead of oxygen (32.1 percent and 30.1 percent, respectively), and it makes up the majority of the planet’s outer and inner cores. It is the fourth most abundant element in the Earth’s crust.

Iron Properties 

  1. In damp air, it rusts, but not in dry air.
  2. It dissolves easily in weak acids.
  3. This metal is in the form of ferrite or -form at room temperature.
  4. It converts to gamma-iron around 910°C, which is much softer in nature.
  5. It has a melting point of 1536°C and a boiling point of 2861°C.
  6. Because it is a metal, it is magnetic in nature. Being a metal is magnetic in nature.

Uses of Iron

  1. It is utilized in the production of steel as well as in civil engineering applications such as reinforced concrete, girders, and so on.
  2. Alloy steels, such as carbon steels, are made using iron plus additions such as nickel, chromium, vanadium, tungsten, and manganese.
  3. Bridges, power pylons, bicycle chains, cutting tools, and rifle barrels are all made from them.
  4. Carbon is present in 3–5% of cast iron. It is utilized in the manufacture of pipes, valves, and pumps.
  5. Iron catalysts are used in the Haber process to create ammonia.
  6. Magnets can be made from this metal, as well as its alloys and compounds.

Conceptual Problems

Question 1: Why does iron have a high melting point?

Solution:

To melt or boil a metal, the attraction between metal ions and displaced electrons must be overcome. Because such attraction forces are solid, metals have high melting and boiling points.

Question 2: What are the properties of iron?

Solution:

Iron is a silver-gray metal that is lustrous, ductile, and malleable (periodic table group VIII). It is known to appear in four unique crystalline forms. The iron rusts in humid conditions but not in dry air. It dissolves quickly in dilute acids.

Question 3: What are the disadvantages of zinc?

Solution:

Just as a zinc deficiency can be harmful to one’s health, an excess of zinc can have the opposite impact. The most prevalent cause of zinc poisoning, which can produce both acute and chronic symptoms, is excessive zinc consumption. Nausea and vomiting are symptoms of toxicity.

Question 4: What are the effects of copper on humans?

Solution:

Copper poisoning can cause inflammation of the nose, throat, and eyes, as well as headaches, stomach aches, dizziness, vomiting, and diarrhoea. Excessive copper absorption can harm the liver and kidneys, as well as cause death. Copper’s carcinogenic potential has yet to be determined.

Question 5: What are the three properties of aluminum?

Solution:

This is owing to its distinct characteristics. It has a low density, is non-toxic, has good thermal conductivity, resists corrosion, and is easy to cast, machine, and shape. It’s also non-magnetic and won’t catch fire. It is the metal with the second highest malleability and the sixth highest ductility.


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