5 The Thirteenth Element

The Thirteenth Element

Would you like to see how aluminum is made? Are you interested in observing the process of turning clay into metal with the help of electricity? Then welcome to the RUSAL factory.

Three factories of RUSAL are located in Sayanogorsk while the largest factory in the world engaged in aluminum production is situated in Krasnogorsk.

This is the aluminum factory of Sayanogorsk. Aluminum is the third most abundant element (after oxygen and silicon), and the most abundant metal, in the Earth’s crust. It has the symbol Al, and its atomic number is 13. There is a lot of aluminum in nature but the one we deal with is obtained industrially and is not met in nuggets as gold.

Alum is produced at the electrolysis center using baths with baked anodes. The anodes are placed into a bath with electrolysis, covered with clay and are then turned into metal.

This is a baked anode. The modern technology helps to get rid of harmful substances at the stage of production.

Lines of electrolysis cells are stretching beyond the horizon. These new workshops were built in 2004-2006 and united in a separate factory later on. The production process is almost totally automatized.

With the help of the construction on the crane aluminum is taken out of electrolysis baths and poured into buckets that will be carried to the foundry. 2 tones of clay, 0,5 tones of carbon for the anode and 15000 kW an hour are needed to obtain one ton of alum.

Working at an electrolysis center is very harmful both for humans and for photographic techniques.

Then a bucket with aluminum is put on a truck and taken to the foundry. A necessary alloy is made of regular aluminum in a special furnace.

Giant furnaces in a foundry produce alum on demand.

Pure aluminum is poured into a furnace.

Alloy components are next to the furnaces.

The operator is observing how the alloy components behave while metal fusion. He needs to send a trial element to the chemical laboratory.

Metal is pouring into small ingots.

Aluminum is a beautiful metal.

There were times when alum was considered more expensive than precious metals. In 1855 when the metal was first introduced to the public, it was called ‘silver made of clay’. Napoleon III, Emperor of France, is reputed to have given a banquet where the most honored guests were given aluminum utensils, while others used regular golden dishes.

Thanks to experiments of Alessandro Volta, chemists understood that complex objects can be divided into simple ones. Metals that exist as compounds in nature can be obtained in the result. Sir Humphry Davy tried to obtain pure metals with the help of an electrolytic plant. He called metal obtained from clay ‘aluminum’. Today every enterprise in the world uses his electrolytical method.

The filling machine that produces extrusion billets for cable industry is controlled from this room.

Metal is poured into vertical cans.

The cover is taken up revealing ready-made objects.

Warm aluminum elements are taken to a special table.

And placed in rows.

However, first alum in the form of a grain was obtained 20 years later. It was actually an alloy with potassium, platinum and mercury. A French chemist Henri Sainte- Claire Deville launched first aluminum production in 1856. One kilogram of this metal cost 300 francs in 1857.

Here long cylinders are cut in parts.

Made in Russia.

Russia became the first country in the world engaged in alum industrial production. Initial kilograms of Soviet aluminum was obtained with the help of electrolytic tanks.

The workers have a short break to drink tea or coffee. They can also have a snack which will be very cheap.

Examining results of a laboratory analysis.

After the fall of the USSR the aluminum industry saw tough times being influenced by Trans World Group that deprived factories of funds necessary for production development and local criminals who hoped to get fast profit. In 1994 first steps were made directed at acquisition of independence. In 2007 United company Russian Aluminum was created. It has become the largest manufacturer of aluminum and clay in the world.

Alum is loaded onto trains.

Two new workshops of the aluminum factory.

Location: Sayanogorsk

via drugoi

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5 Responses to “The Thirteenth Element”

  1. Tom says:

    AluminIum! We’re not in America, spell it correctly! :D

    Never could fathom why other countries learn ‘American English’.. It’s sacrilege!

  2. pedro says:

    Two variants of the metal’s name are in current use, aluminium and aluminum (besides the obsolete alumium). The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) adopted aluminium as the standard international name for the element in 1990 but, three years later, recognized aluminum as an acceptable variant. Hence their periodic table includes both. IUPAC prefers the use of aluminium in its internal publication.


  3. j s says:

    One of those hydroelectric dams now provides power for a Google datacenter in The Dalles, Oregon. It is the largest single datacenter in North America and is nicknamed “the data smelter” because of how the electricity was once used.

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