Properties of aluminium

Aluminium is an exceptional material due to its multiple advantages. The material is appreciated in sectors such as construction, infrastructures and transportation, because of its longevity; its low maintenance and its contribution to energetic performance, to name a few, but many others are worth exploring!


Aluminium is very resistant to corrosion and this enables minimal maintenance on engineering structures. However, it is important to choose the appropriate alloys as well as the correct assembly method to ensure the best durability.


A solid oxide layer (Al2O3) is created naturally on the surface of aluminium when exposed to air. This natural passivation acts as a barrier between the atmosphere and the aluminium, adequately protecting aluminium from corrosion. [1]


Aluminium is an easy metal to work with. Its relatively low fusion temperature makes it an advantage for foundry operations. Moreover, aluminium is a ductile metal. It is an easy material to laminate, forge, extrude and that goes for all other processing methods by plastic deformation. The metal can be cut in three-dimensional forms, shaped, welded, screwed, etc. In addition, extrusions can be customized according to the design of the developer at a reasonable cost or bought from distributors that keep inventories on standard extruded profiles. [2]

Cold working, like lamination, increases the mechanical properties of aluminium and provides a quality smooth surface finish.


Aluminium recycles entirely and infinitely, making it an ecological material. In addition, the recycling of aluminium is relatively simple and requires only 5% of the energy of the initial electrolysis production process. It is estimated that 75% of the aluminium produced since the discovery of the electrolysis process is still in circulation today and is reused or recycled. The lifecycle of aluminium is an infinite loop. [3]


Aluminium is a great solution in order to reduce the weight of structures. The density of aluminium is about three times smaller than steel. It is possible to get aluminium alloys with an elastic and ultimate limit similar to alloys of commercial steel. [4] However, the elasticity module of aluminium is also three times smaller than a steel module, making it more important to integrate all properties when designing a structure. Aluminium makes it possible to reduce the no load condition, increasing the payload, which constitutes a huge advantage in the transportation industry.


Aluminium requires little to no maintenance, translating in a reduction of long-term maintenance costs. No preventive measure is necessary to preserve the metal’s characteristics. Concisely, aluminium requires a minimal investment and has a maximal socio-economical impact.

In comparison to steel, the price per kilogram of aluminium is more costly. In contrast, the optimization of extruded aluminium profiles allows creating shapes which in certain cases, may resist similar efforts than steel, while being much lighter. The lightering of structures allows a labor cost which is lower for the assembly of the project. An aluminium extrusion can be painted and be modular.

In addition, the total cost of ownership (TCO) needs to be taken into account since aluminium is more advantageous in the long-term. It requires less maintenance and sells much more costly than steel at its end-of-life.

In an interview in the Aluminium 101 magazine, Benoît Comeau of Industries Panfab affirms that their enterprise is capable of offering aluminium panels at the same cost of steel panels. Michel Guillot, professor at Université Laval, claims that people overestimate the cost by wanting to do with aluminium what they do with steel. Jean Simard, of the Aluminium Association of Canada specifies that aluminium should not be used as a substitute to steel, but should be used considering its very own set of mechanical properties and characteristics. [6]


Aluminium is a great electric and thermic conductor. The metal is used as a high-voltage electric wire for its conductivity and its density. There is also a frequent use of aluminium in heat-transfer systems such as heat exchangers, air conditioning systems, automobile radiators, etc. [5]

Mechanically resistant

By using aluminium in the form of alloys, there is an increase in the mechanical resistance, facilitating the use of aluminium in structural applications. For certain alloys, the resistance increases by hardening. Aluminium is adapted according to its application and the shaping process. Generally, if an extruded profile is required, as the mullions used in the designing of curtain walls, 6000 series alloys which are more easily extrudable, will be used. For the facade, the aluminium cladding is conceived from plates.

[1] Baïlon, J.-P. et Dorlot, J.-M. (2015). Des matériaux (3e éd.) Montréal (Québec) : Presses internationales Polytechnique
[2] Beaulieu, D. (2003). Calcul des charpentes d’aluminium (6e éd.). Chicoutimi, Québec : Les Presse de l’aluminium.
[3] Levée V. (2016). Aluminium 101. Magazine FORMES, 12(2), 28
[4] Beaulieu, D. (2003). Calcul des charpentes d’aluminium (6e éd.). Chicoutimi, Québec : Les Presse de l’aluminium.
[5] Beaulieu, D. (2003). Calcul des charpentes d’aluminium (6e éd.). Chicoutimi, Québec : Les Presse de l’aluminium.
[6] Levée V. (2016). Aluminium 101. Magazine FORMES, 12(2), 28