Aluminum was discovered in the early 1800s, but it wasn’t until 1825 that it was finally produced as a usable material—and it was the middle of the 19th century before the first production process was created. Commercially, aluminum is one of the “youngest” metals—but did you know aluminum silicates were used as early as 5300 B.C. to make ancient Persian cooking vessels, and that aluminum oxide clays were once used in hide tanning, first aid, and fabric dying? Here are nine more things we bet you didn’t know about aluminum!
1. Aluminum is the most abundant metal in the earth’s crust—8% of its weight, according to the University of Wisconsin—and the third most abundant element on earth.
2. In the mid-19th century, aluminum was considered a precious metal. Napoleon III’s VIP guests ate their meals on aluminum plates and cutlery, while average guests had to eat on “lowly” gold dinnerware.
3. Sci-fi writer Jules Verne describes an aluminum space rocket in his 1865 novel, Journey to the Moon.
4. During World War II, aluminum was used in the construction of aircraft, ship infrastructure, and millions of mess kits. On the home front, “tin foil drives” included an offer of free movie tickets in exchange for aluminum foil balls to contribute to the war effort.
5. In the 1980s, space shuttles were launched with aluminum oxide rocket boosters.
6. A single Boeing-747 contains 147,000 pounds of aluminum, according to Chemicool.
7. Out of the hundreds of aluminum alloys, seven are commonly used in aluminum manufacturing. Aluminum alone is weak, so it is combined with other metals to give it more muscle.
8. The Washington Monument has an 8.9-inch aluminum cap that was originally intended as a lightening rod (it was later supplemented with copper rods).
9. Recycling just one aluminum can save enough energy to keep a 100-watt light bulb burning for almost four hours.