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aluminium, aluminum. Light, silvery metal first named (though not then isolated) by Sir Humphry Davy (1778–1829), who, in 1809 showed that an aluminium-iron alloy could be made by the electrolysis of fused alumina in a hydrogen atmosphere, and that, when the alloy was dissolved, aluminium oxide could be recovered. Hans Christian Oersted (1777–1851) was the first to produce the metal (1825), but a practical electrolytic method of isolating aluminium was not employed until 1886. In 1909 the alloy duralumin was discovered by Alfred Wilm (1869–1937): consisting of 94% aluminium, 4% copper, 1% magnesium, and 1% manganese, duralumin can be greatly strengthened by heat treatment, just as steel is hardened by tempering and quenching, and owes its special qualities to the association of magnesium with the silicon present as an impurity in aluminium. Other strong aluminium alloys include the addition of iron, nickel, chromium, and other metals. Duralumin may be spun, pressed, riveted, machined, etc., but, like aluminium and its other alloys, duralumin cannot be effectively soldered or welded without losing the properties which make it special. Heat-treated duralumin is resistant to corrosion, is ductile, and will carry heavy loads, and strength per unit of weight is high compared with nickel steel or nickel chrome steel. Thus the alloy is especially suited to the construction of aircraft (huge airships such as the German craft designed by Ferdinand, Graf von Zeppelin (1838–1917), would not have been possible without duralumin) and internal-combustion engines. Fuller used duralumin for his projects, including the Dymaxion House (designed 1927, realized 1945–6); Alfred Lawrence Kocher (1885–1969) and Albert Frey (1903– ) employed it in their Aluminaire House (1931), built for an exhibition in NYC, subsequently used by W. K. Hon as a summerhouse at Syosset, Long Island, NY, and later reconstructed at the New York Institute of Technology; and it was an essential part of the project to provide prefabricated dwellings after the 1939–45 war in both the UK and USA. Prouvé used it in his Aluminium House (1953), Foster employed it as cladding for the Sainsbury Centre for the Visual Arts, University of East Anglia, Norwich (1974–8), and it is often found in recent work.


R. Anderson (1925);
Pawley (1990);
Peter (1956);
Schäpke et al. (1991)

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duralumin aluminium alloy. XX. P.; — G., perh. f. Düren (in the Rhineland) + alumin(i)um ALUMINIUM.

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