Aluminum. It’s in everything these days, from your tablet to your toaster. The metal is an integral part of aerospace and aviation applications and helps reduce the weight of cars on the road today.

So, you’re probably asking yourself, “should I be using aluminum on my next project?” Before doing that, here are nine facts that could influence your decision.  

Aluminum is about 1/3 the weight of steel.

One of  the most common questions about aluminum relates to strength: "Is aluminum stronger than steel?" Aluminum is about 1/3 the weight of steel. However, aluminum does have a very strong strength-to-weight ratio. This means it is very strong in proportion to its total weight. For you, that can lead to energy savings in your application. 

Feature Characteristic Benefit
Light Weight 1/3 weight of steel Weight savings
Corrosion resistant Aluminum combines with oxygen to form a tough film which protects the metal Low maintenance, long life, and a consistently good appearance
High strength-to-weight ratio Very strong in proportion to its total weight Energy and labor savings
High electrical conductivity Copper is rated higher but is three times as heavy Substantial savings
High thermal conductivity or heat transfer Conducts heat effectively, good for radiator or cookware Less metal is used to make more product
Low magnetic, low sparking Difficulty in sparking; used in electronic equipment Safety
Low heat radiating Does not radiate heat effectively, good solution for moving hot liquid gases Safety
High heat and light reflectivity Will reflect 80% of the heat and light striking it. Ideal for heat shielding and lighting Safety and cost savings
Excellent machinability Suited for high-speed machining Produce more parts per hour/pound/unit of energy
Malleable and ductile Pliable material that can be easily drawn, formed, and worked Allows for an unlimited range of applications

Aluminum does not rust, but ...  

You may be asking, "Does aluminum rust?" Aluminum does not rust, but it does corrode. Aluminum combines with oxygen to form a tough film which protects the metal. For you, that means low maintenance, a longer life, and a consistently good appearance for application. 

Aluminum is difficult to spark! 

Another common question is, "Is aluminum magnetic?" Overall, aluminum is a low magnetic, low sparking metal. This helps when it is used in electronic equipment because it is difficult to spark. 

Aluminum features high electrical conductivity. 

While copper is rated higher in terms of electrical conductivity, it is about three times as heavy. That means aluminum offers you substantial savings in this category. 

According to The Aluminum Association, a roof that is properly coated with aluminum can reflect up to 95% of solar energy that strikes them. This can dramatically improve energy efficiency. 

Aluminum likes to cook.  

Aluminum is an ideal material for radiators or cookware. This is due to the fact that aluminum features high thermal conductivity (heat transfer), which means aluminum conducts heat effectively.
However, while aluminum conducts heat effectively, it has a low rate of heat radiation. That makes aluminum a good material for applications that move hot liquid gases. 

Aluminum likes to reflect.

Aluminum will reflect 80% of the heat and light striking it. This makes it an ideal material for heat shielding and lighting. 

Aluminum has a need for speed!

Aluminum features excellent machinability, which makes it suitable for high-speed machining. For you, that means the ability to produce more parts per hour, per pound, and per unit of energy. 

Aluminum isn't toxic 

Aluminum is not known to have toxic effects, which makes it a good choice for things like food and beverage containers. 

Aluminum and plasma don't play well together. 

When cutting aluminum, it is best to use a either a saw, shear, or laser. It is not advisable to use plasma, because when aluminum combines with water it can produce a build-up of hydrogen gas bubbles, which could be ignited by the plasma laser. In fact, there are many tips about which metals to use with which cutting methods, according to our fabrication experts. 

You will notice that when ordering aluminum online, Ryerson only provides the option to saw, shear, or laser cut the product. 

Knowing all of this, you may be asking yourself one last question: How much is aluminum per pound? The answer to that question tends to fluctuate daily. Luckily Ryerson has a resource to help you keep track of the pricing trend of aluminum.