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The Extraction of Aluminium Essay

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The metal aluminium is a very important to many of the worlds industries how ever it requires a special process called electrolysis to extract it form other metals which is commonly found with. As i mentioned aluminium is an extremely useful metal and has many uses which we depend on in our daily life’s which are any thing from packaging to being used in transportation.

This means that we have to to be able to extract aluminium, as it is extremely rare to find aluminium as a free metal.

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In fact, it is know to combine with over 270 other metals. Extraction is a major problem for aluminium and there is no ideal solution. However there are many not so perfect solutions that are currently being practiced today. In this essay I will look into some of the limitations and benefits of the current extraction techniques. I will also look at some of the economic and environmental effects the extraction of aluminium has.

When aluminium is extracted from the other metals it must go through processes called electrolysis. Aluminium is not an easy metal to extract from other metals it is found in nature with, therefore it takes a lot of electricity to extract aluminium. Because it is such an energy consuming processe researchers have found ways to cut down the energy usage by adding different compounds to the aluminium. The most common way to do this is to add molton cryolite to the molton aluminium. With adding molton cryolite to the molton aluminium alone it effectively lowers the temperature needed extract from 2000�C to 950�C, that is more than a 50% decrease in the required temperature 2.

However due to the fact that the oxygen reacts with the carbon positive electrodes this can cause an inconvenience. When oxygen (O) reacts with carbon (C) it forms carbon dioxide (CO2). When the carbon dioxide forms it eats away the positive electrode over time. As the positive electrodes are eaten away they must be replaced on a frequent and regular basis, this is a negatieve inconvenience that further adds to the cost of producing aluminum which is already high form the large amount of energy that is needed 3.

In the remainder of this essay I will look at the aluminium electrolysis plant located in Reydarfjordur, Iceland. I will look at some of the environmental and economic consequences of this plant run by Alcoa. When a new plant or factory is created it can either be good or a bad thing and have both positive and negative effects on the economy and the environnent.

With this plant in Reydarfjordur it has a great effect on the economy as it brings many new jobs to this not yet developed region of Iceland. In order to build this plant it requires around 1800 temporary jobs. After the plant is in a running and stable condition it will require about 450 people on a daily basis as well as another 300 jobs that will be indirectly created 1. As jobs in the eastern Iceland or Reydarfjordur area have been steadily decreasing over time this will hopefully boost the employment rate and provide jobs for many.

When extracting aluminium there is no “environmentally friendly” solution however many new plants, including the Alcoa plant in Reydarfjordur have much lower emissions than others that are older or less environmentally friendly. The new plan for the Alcoa plant in Reydarfjordur has significantly lower emission rates than other Alcoa plants which are all within local standards. Alcoa claims they are a large supporter of sustainable development and for this plant alone they have over 60 experts looking in to and implementing ways to preserve our environment. This new factory meets and exceeds all European Union and Icelandic emissions requirements, this is the first step to creating a sustainable plant. In fact, a recent study regarding this factory shows Alcoa factory located in Iceland had 35% lover CO2 emissions than other leading aluminum plants. As well as having lower CO2 emissions they also boast 40% less PFC emissions and a 80% lower nitrogen oxide emissions 1.


1. “Alcoa.” Acoa. 2 Feb. 2008 <http://www.alcoa.com/iceland/en/info_page/reydarfjordur.asp>.

2. Various. “Alumiumum.” Wikipedia. 1 Feb. 2008. 2 Feb. 2008 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aluminium>.

3. “Extraction of AL.” BBC. 2 Feb. 2008 <http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/chemistry/usefulproductsrocks/electrolysisrev3.shtml>.

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