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A brief history of the 'Metal Of The Future'! - Part 3

Welcome back! Here's the third post on the history of the wonder metal - Aluminium. Let's move on in our journey and check out the important milestones that shaped our history.

Read our first & second post in this series.

1939: The world’s first turbojet-powered aircraft, the German Heinkel He 178, took to air on the 27th of August, 1939. Powered by a centrifugal-flow engine prototyped by Hans Joachim Pabst von Ohain, Ernst Heinkel designed the aircraft to achieve flight speeds up to 380 miles per hour. Despite the successful flight demonstration, the Reich Air Ministry (RLM) rejected the aeroplane stating that its combat endurance was only 10 minutes which limited its usability as a military aircraft in a war situation.

German Heinkel He 178
1948: The production of Series I, the first model of Land Rover cars, started off in 1948. Designed with an aluminium body and a steel-box chassis, it was originally intended for farming and light industrial use. Aluminium reduced the weight of the vehicle, thereby increasing the car’s fuel efficiency and resistance to corrosion.

Land Rover
1957: 4th October 1957, marked a milestone event in the history of humankind when the Soviet Union successfully launched the world’s first artificial satellite the ‘Sputnik I’ into space. Built entirely with aluminium alloy, Sputnik was 58 cm in diameter, weighed 83.6 kg and took only 98 minutes to orbit the Earth. The launch of Sputnik ushered in the Space Age for it propelled USA and USSR into a space race and led to the creation of NASA.

Sputnik satellite
1967: This was the year that aerated drinks behemoths Coca-Cola and Pepsi started selling the beverages in aluminium cans. It revolutionized the soft-drinks industry for the cans could be recycled over and over again without loss in quality. In fact, today Coca Cola’s cans are made of 42% recycled aluminium and 56% new aluminium.

Coca-Cola aluminium cans
1969: A key player in the aluminium guzzling aviation industry and the company and consortium of European aerospace manufacturers, Airbus was founded on 18 December 1969 with a mission to rival Boeing, McDonnell Douglas and Lockheed. Headquartered in Toulouse, France, Airbus is now a leading commercial aircraft manufacturer and captures almost half of all commercial airliner orders in the 100-seat and above category.

Airbus plane
1970: The world’s first twin-aisle, wide-body and twin-deck passenger aircraft, Boeing 747, makes its maiden flight for Pan American on 21st Jan, from London to New York. It was a landmark achievement in the history of the global aviation industry. Created amidst reduction in airfares, a surge in air-passenger traffic and increasingly crowded skies, the Boeing 747, nicknamed ‘Jumbo Jet’ had ample room and can carry up to 660 passengers. The aircraft is one of the most recognizable aircrafts in the world due to its distinctive ‘hump’ in the upper deck near the nose. Did you know that a single Boeing 747 requires over 66 tonnes of aluminium?

The Boeing 747
1972: With its members engaged in producing bauxite, alumina, aluminium and consumer goods, the International Aluminium Institute (IAI) was founded in 1972. It is the primary institution for R&D and tech expertise in the global aluminium industry. The institute aims to increase awareness of the valuable properties of aluminium and thereby increase its market size, provide a global forum for aluminium producers to congregate on matters of common concern, and promote a green & sustainable environment around the metal.

Aluminium - The Metal if the Future
1978: Established above a hat shop in London’s Lombard Court in 1877, the London Metal Market and Exchange Company first traded in tin, copper and pig iron. Since its inception, the LME has moved offices four times, from Lombard Court to Whittington Avenue, then to Plantation House in Fenchurch Street, followed by Leadenhall Street, and finally its current home at the Finsbury Square. Primary aluminium futures started trading on LME in 1978, and high-grade contract aluminium in August 1987.

The London Metal Exchange
1994: The flagship A8 model of the German Audi was the world’s first mass-market car with a fully-aluminium chassis. In an industry obsessed with faster, powerful and more fuel-efficient cars, no other automaker has relentlessly pursued an aluminium body as much as the Audi.

Audi A8 full aluminium chassis
1998: With a significant amount of aluminium in its body, the first component of the International Space Station was launched in 1998. Approx. five times the size of Russian space station, Mir, the ISS weighs about a million pounds over a length of 357ft, end-to-end. It is powered by an acre of solar panels, a surface area that could cover the U.S. Senate Chamber three times over, and programmed with about 2.3 million lines of code.

The International Space Station
Whoa! That was quite a ride from the 1800s, rife with events and inventions that have changed the course of humankind’s progress. The history of aluminium is hardly a few centuries old, but if we consider the spheres of human subsistence, the degree of its ubiquity is staggering! There isn’t a field that hasn’t benefited from the wondrous properties of aluminium, and each day scientists are working towards unlocking more powerful dimensions of the metal. Do we see the future of humankind sustained on the backbone of aluminium? 

Well, let’s just say that so far we haven’t found a reason to say ‘NO’.


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