June 24, 2016
Smartphones, electric cars, wearable devices; what do all three of these things have in common? At one time they were considered to be a fantasy, to only be imagined in the realm of science fiction. With the constant progress of technology, these fantasies have become reality. Not only that, aluminum has helped play a part in bringing these previously science fiction items to life, and it has no plans of stopping its part in helping technology progress into the future. Here are some glimpses into the future of technology that are being helped along by aluminum.
At Stanford University, scientists have successfully created an aluminum graphite battery. These batteries are flexible, long lasting, and can charge in just under a minute. Currently, they hold only half the power of a current lithium battery, but that will quickly change.
Also, a new type of battery technology called aluminum-air batteries are being tested for electric cars. This type of battery uses the oxygen in the air to fill its cathode, making the battery far lighter than its liquid lithium-ion counterpart. Additionally, when the aluminum-air batteries drain, they turn the aluminum into aluminum hydroxide which can then be recycled to make new batteries. This will mean that owners will have to swap out batteries every few months, however, due to it being lighter, and cheaper than current battery making efforts, this huge mileage jump should be easily affordable to electric car owners.
While it seems that all signs are pointing at aluminum becoming the new steel within the automotive industry, there are several hurdles that need to be overcome before it is able to be used effectively. Namely, the current cost of aluminum, along with a lack of infrastructure for manufacture and maintenance. However, this hasn’t stopped the auto industry to use it where it can, and it seems that lighter hybrid metals using aluminum or just straight aluminum itself will soon be another ingredient that is used by auto manufacturers.While aluminum currently dominates as the material of choice for wheels and engine blocks, it’s use in automotive technology has increased as well. The first aluminum car can be dated back to 1913, however, the metal was never really seen as an automotive component outside of small batch premium vehicles such as Rolls-Royce and Ferrari. However, with Ford rolling off their first batch of F-150’s with an aluminum body along with BMW’s i8 and Audi’s A8, it seems that aluminum has hit the main stream. Ford’s new F-series comes in 700 pounds lighter than its previous F-Series models. This has allowed Ford to produce a lighter and more fuel efficient truck.
Aluminum is doing great things and impacting our daily lives without us even realizing it. I’m curious to see what innovations are brought from this versatile metal, that we have yet to discover.