An alloy is formed when two or more metals are combined. In relation to that definition, an aluminum alloy can be described as a combination of aluminum with some other metals. The important thing to note about these alloys is that aluminum retains the predominant percentage. Taking into consideration the many properties of aluminum, creating of alloys using the metal was something that was inevitable. Over the years, many different metals have been combined with aluminum, and their uses have extended to different unrelated industries.
Why exactly is aluminum alloyed? Aluminum, as it is general knowledge, is malleable, strong, and corrosion resistance. However, aluminum is soft and has low tensile strength, which makes its use rather limited in its pure form. Alloying is supposed to correct these weaknesses, by combining with a metal that can compensate. The final product of alloying is a metal with a high strength to weight ratio, which is difficult to achieve with other metals. Other properties aimed for by alloying include lowering of the melting point of aluminum and increase weldability. Alloying helps the aluminum to be heat treated, and this directly increases the range of applications.
There are some aluminum alloys that are considered to hold more importance than others. But before we explore this, it is good to appreciate that all aluminum alloys are useful in someway. Applications include engineering use in aeronautics and automotive industries, building of ships, to more modest uses as in the making of household utensils. As far as aircraft building is concerned, aluminum is alloyed with magnesium. Magnesium is the preferred element because of its light weight. There is no lighter weight aluminum alloy in comparison, though it is important to note that magnesium is not used in great quantities because it is flammable. Lithium is also alloyed with aluminum for aircraft construction, but this alloy is much more expensive to process. Silicon-aluminum alloys are used in architectural applications. There are many more alloys in existence, and it would certainly be impractical to list them all down, but as a guide, aluminum alloys classified as either wrought or casting alloys.
There is an association that registers all conceived alloys of aluminum. Though the organization is not directly involved in assuring the quality of aluminum alloys used through regulations, it does offer leadership in the industry. Any aluminum alloy is scrutinized, described, named and listed with the organization, for other industry players to follow.
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