Aluminium is the third most abundant element (after oxygen and silicon), and the most abundant metal, in the Earth's crust. It makes up about 8% by weight of the Earth's solid surface. Aluminium metal is so chemically reactive that native specimens are rare and limited to extreme reducing environments. Instead, it is found combined in over 270 different minerals. The chief ore of aluminium is bauxite
Aluminium is remarkable for the metal's low density and for its ability to resist corrosion due to the phenomenon of passivation. Structural components made from aluminium and its alloys are vital to the aerospace industry and are important in other areas of transportation and structural materials. The most useful compounds of aluminium, at least on a weight basis, are the oxides and sulfates.
Despite its prevalence in the environment, aluminium salts are not known to be used by any form of life. In keeping with its pervasiveness, aluminium is well tolerated by plants and animals. Owing to their prevalence, potential beneficial (or otherwise) biological roles of aluminium compounds are of continuing interest. Aluminium is a relatively soft, durable, lightweight, ductile and malleable metal with appearance ranging from silvery to dull gray, depending on the surface roughness. It is nonmagnetic and does not easily ignite. A fresh film of aluminium serves as a good reflector (approximately 92%) of visible light and an excellent reflector (as much as 98%) of medium and far infrared radiation. The yield strength of pure aluminium is 7–11 MPa, while aluminium alloys have yield strengths ranging from 200 MPa to 600 MPa. Aluminium has about one-third the density and stiffness of steel. It is easily machined, cast, drawn and extruded. Aluminium atoms are arranged in a face-centered cubic (fcc) structure. Aluminium has a stacking-fault energy of approximately 200 mJ/m2. Aluminium is a good thermal and electrical conductor, having 59% the conductivity of copper, both thermal and electrical, while having only 30% of coppers' density. Aluminium is capable of being a superconductor, with a superconducting critical temperature of 1.2 Kelvin and a critical magnetic field of about 100 gauss (10 milliteslas)