& low-carbon products
thanks to aluminium
Every one of us uses aluminium daily. It is in the phone you use, the car you drive, the can you drink from, and the pans you cook with. Aluminium’s endless recyclability and unique properties bring remarkable advantages to mobility, building & construction, packaging, and more. But did you know that aluminium also plays a vital role in the transition to a more sustainable energy system and a greener, more circular economy? Aluminium is a critical component in solar panels, electrical transmission systems, wind turbines, batteries, and electric vehicles, for example. Read all about the many uses of our “anything but basic” metal below!
Aluminium is the world’s most used non-ferrous metal – and for good reasons. In its use phase, aluminium delivers significant energy and CO2 savings that enable the decarbonisation of other sectors, including mobility and transport, buildings, packaging and clean energy technologies. The endless recyclability of our metal further contributes to decarbonisation and the circular economy. Because aluminium can be recycled over and over again, it is no surprise that 75% of all aluminium ever produced is still on the market today!
Aluminium is at the heart of the green energy transition. It’s used in energy generation, transmission and storage technologies.
Aluminium is widely used in all kinds of vehicles and acts as a real catalyst for low-carbon mobility.
Aluminium’s flexibility and contribution to energy efficiency make it the material of choice for building and construction solutions.
Aluminium is at the heart of Europe’s green energy transition. It is used in almost all energy generation, transmission, and storage technologies: from wind and solar power to alternative fuel cells and hydrogen production to high-voltage cables and batteries. Not only is aluminium highly conductive and lightweight, but thanks to its corrosion resistance, it is also the ideal material for harsh outdoor conditions. It is easy to install, low maintenance, and durable, ticking all the boxes for renewable energy generation systems. Aluminium alloys consistently exceed other metals for mechanical stability, dampening, thermal management, and reduced weight.
Aluminum is the single most widely used material in solar power applications, including in solar frames, wires, and their support structure.
According to the World Bank, our metal already accounts for more than 85% of the materials used in solar power frames. It can even improve the efficiency of solar cells themselves, thanks to the material’s unique reflectivity properties. The European Commission forecasts EU aluminium demand for solar installations to increase to 1,300,000 tonnes by 2050 in a high-demand scenario.
Aluminium is also used widely in on-shore and off-shore wind power farms, including tower platform components, transformer stations, and turbines. According to the European Commission, the EU aluminium demand for wind turbines alone is expected to reach up to 140,000 tonnes by 2050.
While cobalt and lithium are probably best known for being used in energy storage, batteries generally use a wide variety of minerals for the cathode, including aluminium.
Aluminium is more widely used in battery enclosures. Aluminium’s thermal conductivity helps batteries from overheating or cooling down too much, improving a battery’s performance and life cycle.
Researchers are also working on an aluminium-ion battery technology that could be far more powerful than conventional lithium-ion batteries.
Thanks to aluminium’s superior conductivity-to-weight ratio compared with copper, almost all electric lights, motors, appliances, and power systems depend on a vast grid of high-voltage aluminium wires and cables. Aluminium has been used in high-voltage transmission lines since 1945 and is the most economical way to transmit electric power today.
Aluminium is used for thermal management and as a base plate metal in hydrogen production and alternative fuel cells. Moreover, it is a crucial component of the supporting infrastructure of these technologies, such as hydrogen filling stations.
New applications to unlock the full potential of alternative fuels with aluminium are under development. For example, researchers from the prestigious MIT University are developing a cost-effective method for generating large amounts of hydrogen fuel using the reactivity of aluminium with water. This process does not produce greenhouse gas emissions and would enable hydrogen fuel to be produced on-site and on-demand.
Because aluminium is a highly effective conductor, heat exchangers in geothermal or ground-source heat pumps are typically made with aluminium.
You will also find our metal in radiators because aluminium allows them to heat up rapidly and warm up your room much quicker than steel or cast iron radiators. Combined with its endless recyclability, it makes aluminium a much more environmentally friendly option.
Aluminium is a real catalyst for low-carbon mobility. The beauty of lightweighting vehicles with aluminium is that it reduces the energy needed to move from A to B; and brings all associated benefits like CO2 reduction, better air quality, and cost savings. Because of these unmatched benefits, aluminium is increasingly the material of choice for all kinds of vehicles: cars, trucks, planes, ships, trains, and even space shuttles! Aluminium’s growing use in mobility is excellent news for a circular economy as well: using aluminium ensures high recycling rates at the end of life. More than 90% of the metal is recovered after the end of the vehicle’s use phase and re-used to create new aluminium products with only a fraction of the energy needed to produce primary aluminium.
The aluminium content in road vehicles is rising every year. You can find our metal in engine radiators, wheels, bumpers, suspension parts, engine cylinder blocks, battery boxes, hoods, doors, frames, and more. The electric vehicle revolution has boost demand for our material further. You need aluminium to improve the range of electric vehicles, ensure their batteries stay cool, and for their charging infrastructure.
The future of mobility is electric; the future of electricity is green energy, and the metal enabling this green electric future is aluminium.
Aluminium helps electric and hybrid cars stay light, which is one of the most effective ways to improve a vehicle’s energy efficiency. The lighter the vehicle is, the longer it can drive on one charge. Because of its thermal management properties, aluminium is also the perfect material for battery boxes, cooling systems, and energy storage.
But the contribution of our metal to the electric vehicle revolution does not stop there. Thanks to its high strength and durability, aluminium is the material of choice for charging poles and cables supporting energy transfer and the renewable energy systems that feed into them.
In 1903, the Wright Brothers chose an aluminium engine for their first airplane because of the weight it saved. Since then, the phenomenal growth of the aerospace industry has been built on its widespread adoption of aluminium. In some planes, aluminium represents as much as 80% of its weight!
Aluminium allows airplane manufacturers to light weight internal components, such as passenger seats, saving weight, fuel, and CO2 emissions. What’s more, aluminium’s resistance to corrosion and UV damage ensures the safety of the aircraft and its passengers.
Since the launch of Sputnik in 1957, aluminium has been the material of choice for all types of space structures. Thanks to its high strength-to-weight ratio and ability to withstand the stresses of launch and space operations, aluminium has been used in several space missions, including the Apollo missions, Skylab, space shuttles, and the International Space Station.
Aluminium has been a key enabler of faster and more economical rail transport and shipping since the 70s. Thanks to our metal’s light weight, underground vehicles, trams, trains, and ships can miminise running costs and achieve higher speeds.
For transporting goods and raw materials across large geographical areas, alumimum also enables considerable cost savings because aluminium railcars and vessels can take on increased payloads and are highly durable, often compensating for their higher purchasing costs in under two years.
Aluminium is widely used in trucks, particularly those carrying freight. Reducing the dead weight of a truck by using aluminium to make it lighter allows the truck to carry a greater payload. With the maximum weight of trucks in Europe regulated by law, each kilogram of weight saved on the truck or the trailer allows an extra kg of valuable load. This means fewer journeys and lower overall CO2 emissions. Each kilogram of aluminium in today’s articulated trucks saves 26 kg of CO2 throughout their lifetime! Aluminium can also make trucks safer.
In 2015, the EU decided to allow truck cabins to be longer, increasing their safety and aerodynamics. The aluminium industry has shown how to use this extra space to improve passenger safety by introducing an energy-absorbing aluminium crash management system.
By making vehicles lighter using aluminium, they use less fuel and emit fewer emissions without compromising safety. Aluminium’s lightweighting properties enable cars produced in Europe this year to prevent 50 million tonnes of CO2 emissions during their lifetime.
Aluminium helps electric and hybrid cars stay light, which is one of the most effective ways to improve a vehicle’s energy efficiency. The lighter the vehicle is, the longer it can drive on one charge, saving time and money.
An aluminium crash box folds predictably and absorbs twice as much crash energy per kilogram as a steel solution. With only a third of the density of steel, aluminium crash-sensitive components can be made with a greater wall-thickness and still reduce weight. Furthermore, aluminium extrusions offers design flexibility that, together with aluminium sheet and casting components, makes aluminium the preferred solution for safety-critical components like battery boxes and bumpers.
In today’s modern plants, 95% of aluminium in an end-of-life vehicle is successfully and profitably re-used or recycled into new aluminium products, substituting primary aluminium. Recycling aluminium is great for the environment and uses only 5% of the energy required to produce primary aluminium.
Aluminium’s design flexibility and contribution to energy efficiency make it the material of choice for many applications in building and construction. Our metal has been enabling the energy efficiency, recyclability, comfort, safety, and durability of houses, offices, bridges, and other building & construction applications for over a century. Aluminium is an architect’s dream: it can be cast and extruded in virtually any shape, offering endless design possibilities. Furthermore, aluminium can be anodised or painted in any colour and on any number of surfaces. These processes further improve our products’ durability and corrosion resistance and simplify maintenance.
Aluminium profiles are the natural choice for large glazed surfaces like verandas, skylights, curtain walls, and large sliding windows. Slender thermally broken aluminium profiles can increase transparent areas by up to 20% compared to windows equipped with frames made of other materials. This allows architects to optimise a building’s energy efficiency all year round.
In cold seasons, a building’s heat losses must be reduced, while solar gains must be maximised. Maximising the transparent window areas through slender aluminium frames can also help optimise solar gains. The use of aluminium shutters in cold periods will further limit heat losses at night.
On the other hand, solar gains must be minimised in hot seasons to optimise the occupants’ comfort and reduce air conditioning needs. Aluminium shading devices like solar blades or shutters can offer the perfect solution.
Last but not least, aluminium cladding protects buildings and helps insulate them. Aluminium ventilated cladding systems cover the outer side of insulation materials against the rain, which would otherwise cause their heat-saving properties to deteriorate. The air gap serves as an additional retainer of warmth during cold days. During warm days, the aluminium cladding partially reflects solar radiation, shades the internal building skin layers, and ensures natural ventilation in the cavity, reducing the need for air conditioning.
Aluminium is a material of choice for structural applications: the parts contributing to the mechanical resistance and stability of buildings, constructions, engineering works, and transport applications. Roofs for sports arenas, industrial halls, silos, bridges, trains, ships, and oil platforms are just a few examples of where you can find aluminium structures.
Aluminium metal is “non-combustible”, meaning that it does not burn when exposed to fire. For this reason, it belongs to the best European reaction to fire class: A1.
Architects can choose from a wide range of aluminium claddings to optimise a building’s fire safety. Aluminium outer cladding can come in the form of aluminium sheet (bare, coated, or anodised) or aluminium composite material (ACM). Bare and anodised aluminium sheets and a wide range of coated aluminium sheets are non-combustible. ACMs are available with various core materials, including fire retardant and non-combustible options.
When used in the exterior ventilated facade, the outer cladding is the visible part of the system that protects the wall insulation from the rain, separated by an air gap. The outer cladding material, wall insulation material, and fire barriers all influence a facade’s flammability.
Currently, only 1% of buildings in the EU undergo energy-efficient renovation annually. The EU’s Renovation Wave, a flagship initiative of the EU Green Deal, aims to double annual energy renovation rates in the next 10 years.
As a result of the EU’s Renovation Wave, the demand for our sustainable building solutions is expected to grow significantly. The renovation of old buildings using energy-efficient aluminium solutions that minimise heat loss and maximise heat gains offers a huge opportunity to improve the environmental performance of buildings in Europe.
Aluminium is everywhere, so much so that we often don’t notice it. It is part of the bike you cycle to work, your kitchen utensils, and your TV. You may even be reading this on a phone with an aluminium body! The two most recognisble applications we come across every day are perhaps aluminium foil and beverage cans. Aluminium is a popular packaging material for food, drinks and medicine because it provides a total barrier function, keeping products safe from bacterial contamination, oxidation, moisture, and light, to protect the product’s integrity and extend its shelf life. It is also very light, making it easy to stack and less costly to transport. Last but not least, the endless recyclability of our metal allows us to offer highly circular packaging solutions in a fast-moving consumer good area. We have bold commitments when it comes to recycling aluminium packaging and believe that we can increase circularity in the packaging sector through cooperation with local authorities, product developers, consumers, and waste management operators.
The aluminium beverage can is one of the world’s most popular drink containers. Europeans use up to 50 billion cans every year for water, soft drinks, and beer. Because of aluminium’s total barrier function, beverage cans retain taste while offering a very long shelf life. It is the perfect packaging for any drink. It is extremely light, stackable, virtually unbreakable, and – thanks to excellent temperature conductivity – drinks can be quickly cooled in a snap and remain cool for longer.
Moreover, aluminium cans are fully recyclable, with no loss in quality. Unlike other beverage packaging materials, used aluminium cans are rarely subject to degradation, mechanical stress, or chemical damage in the recycling processes. It takes only 60 days for a single aluminium can to be produced, filled, distributed, consumed, and recycled into a new can. This makes the aluminium beverage can the ideal packaging solution for achieving the EU’s recycling targets for 2025 and 2030.
We also educate consumers about the importance of recycling their drink cans. One example is our unique Every Can Counts partnership between drinks can manufacturers. As part of this partnership, we coordinate a behaviour change campaign that inspires consumers, brands, and event organisers to collect and recycle drink cans wherever they are consumed. The initiative started in 2008 as a pilot project in the UK and is now deployed in 19 EU countries. It even went global in 2021 with the addition of a Brazilian branch!
Each year, more than seven billion aluminium aerosol cans are produced worldwide. Almost half of these are deodorant sprays, with hair sprays and foams making up about one-fifth. The rest is used in preserving sensitive household, pharmaceutical, and food products.
Aluminium aerosols work perfectly for recycling and the circular economy. Made from high-purity aluminium, used aerosols are particularly sought-after for recycling.
Aluminium foil provides a total barrier to light, moisture and aroma. It extends the shelf life of food, care products, or medicines. Today, it is found in every conceivable market, including sterile beverage cartons, sachets, pouches, lids, wrappers, blister and strip packs, and foil containers.
Typically, aluminium is rolled to a thickness of fewer than 0.2 millimetres. The thinnest aluminium foil is only 0.006 millimetres (6 microns) thick, less than a human hair, while still performing as an absolute barrier.
The aluminium wine closure was invented more than 40 years ago. There are also used extensively for bottled water and food products such as olive oil, where the integrity and quality of the closure are essential.
The aluminium closure brings benefits to both producers and consumers; it preserves aromas, flavours, and freshness while providing bottle-to-bottle consistency. They are easy to open and reclose with no impact on flavour. The closures come in a wide range of sizes with innovative design and infinite decoration options.
Aluminium is found all over the home, particularly in the kitchen. It is part of kitchen appliances and widely used in everyday utensils because its excellent heat conductivity – 2.5 higher than steel – makes it ideal for pots, pans, and baking materials.
Manufacturers are increasingly using aluminium in all kinds of electronic equipment – TVs, tablets, laptops, and smartphones. Aluminium is lighter than steel products, stronger, and more reliable than plastic while retaining beauty and practicality. Aluminium is the mark of premium quality in electronic devices.
The combination of lightness and strength makes aluminium the ideal material for many sports. In cycling, for example, aluminium is widely used for frames, making them corrosion-resistant and delivering the best weight-to-cost ratio.
Today, Europe’s recycling rate for used aluminium beverage cans stands at 76% (2019), an important milestone in our joint roadmap to 100% recycling of aluminium cans by 2030 with Metal Packaging Europe. This ambitious target can only be reached if European packaging collection systems are further optimised or replaced by balanced deposit return schemes (DRS) for beverage cans and other relevant beverage containers.