What Is Aluminum

What Is Aluminum

This chapter does not deal with the origins of aluminum or how it is renedfrom bauxite, although the ruins at Les Baux de Provence in southern Franceare certainly worth a visit. There is an ingot of aluminum in the museum atLa Citadelle des

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Baux as a tribute to the metal that is produced from thenearby red rock, which the geologist Berthier dubbed ‘‘bauxite” in honor ofthis ancient fortress in 1821 (135). The ruins of the medieval stronghold,though, are the real attraction. We’ll defer to Fodor’s and Frommer’s on thetravel tips, and to Sharp on a discussion of the history, mining, and productionof aluminum (133). Our purpose in this chapter is to discuss aluminum’s placein the families of structural metals.

We include aluminum with steel and reinforced concrete as a metal-basedmaterial of construction. While our basis for this grouping may not be immediatelyobvious, it becomes more apparent when considered in an historicalcontext (103).

Prior to the development of commercially viable methods of producingiron, almost all construction consisted of gravity structures. From the pyramidsof the pharoahs to the neoclassical architecture of Napoleonic Europe,builders stacked stones in such a way that the dead load of the stone pilemaintained a compressive state of force on each component of the structure(see Figure 2.1).

The development of methods to mass-produce iron, in additionto spawning the Industrial Revolution in the nineteenth century, resultedin iron becoming commercially available as a material of construction. Architecturewas then freed from the limitations of the stone pile by structuralcomponents that could be utilized in tension as well as compression.

Americanarchitect Frank Lloyd Wright observed that with the availability of ironas a construction material, ‘‘the architect is no longer hampered by the stonebeam of the Greeks or the stone arch of the Romans.”

Early applications ofbeam of the Greeks or the stone arch of the Romans.” Early applications ofthis new design freedom were the great iron and glass railway stations of theVictorian era. Builders have been pursuing improvements to the iron beamever since.An inherent drawback to building with iron as compared to the old stonepile is the propensity of iron to deteriorate by oxidation. Much of the effortto improve the iron beam has focused on this problem. One response.

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