Elemental Business: Aluminium
Aluminium is the metal that just keeps on giving. In everything from drinks cans to car bodies, it can be recycled again and again. So could we one day stop mining it altogether?
We look at aluminium, a more dazzling metal than you may imagine. A sceptical Justin Rowlatt visits the lab of our perennial chemist, Andrea Sella, to find out why it is used in everything from drinks cans to packaging to insulation to window frames.This metal used to be incredibly rare, because it is so hard to extract from its ore, bauxite. We visit Britain's only aluminium smelter - in the Scottish Highlands - to find out why so much electricity is needed in the process.
But once you have it, it can be used, recycled and re-used almost ad infinitum. As the stock of metal in circulation increases every year, we ask the world's biggest manufacturer of rolled aluminium sheets whether one day the world may not need to mine the metal at all any more.
And, as if that were not enough, we dispatch Justin to tour the world's biggest aluminium car body shop to find out why vehicle manufacturers are dropping the use of steel in favour of its lighter rival.
(Photo: Aluminium bodied Range Rovers in production at the Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) plant in Solihull. Credit: Press Association)