Aluminum is one of the Earth’s most common naturally occurring metals. While we often think of aluminum as the sheet material that wraps up our leftovers, it is so much more than that. Aluminum makes up about 8% of the Earth’s crust, which may be why we so often take it for granted.
But while aluminum is the most prevalent element in the Earth’s crust, it was once extremely valuable. Despite its sheer bulk, it was nearly impossible to isolate. Aluminum binds tightly to other elements. In fact, rubies, sapphires, and other precious jewels are made primarily of aluminum oxides. The first sample of aluminum wasn’t extracted until 1825, by a Danish chemist named Hans Christian Oersted.
Believe it or not, aluminum used to be more valuable than gold. That’s why the apex of the Washington Monument is made of aluminum. At the time of its completion in 1884, aluminum was one of the most valuable materials on the planet.
Napoleon III proudly served meals on aluminum plates to his revered guests, and he had aluminum cutlery as well. It is reported that he also had an aluminum rattle made for his son.
In 1886, however, two young men independently discovered a way to create pure aluminum.
Charles Martin Hall of Ohio and Paul Heroult of France both developed the same process of using the aluminum compound, cryolite, to produce pure aluminum. All they had to do was shoot an electric current through it.
After that, the cost of aluminum began to fall from $12 per pound in 1880, to nearly one third of that at $4.86 just eight years later. By 1930, aluminum was worth just about 20 cents per pound.
Despite its lesser value, the demand for aluminum was still high. Now it’s being used in everything from cans to foil, to aircraft, packaging, electronics like the iPhone, and, of course, automobiles.
Scrap prices for cars vary from part to part and material as well. But here’s another little known fact about aluminum: when you get cash for junk cars, the most money you get back is from aluminum.
While this metal only makes up about 10% of the vehicle’s weight, it accounts for nearly 50% of the scrap value.
After exchanging junk cars for cash, the scrap parts go into recycling plants, where 90% of the aluminum is recycled, then reused. When thinking about junking a car, take it to Cash Auto Salvage. Getting cash for junk cars is both an economically and environmentally friendly to get rid of unwanted vehicles.