Aluminum

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Aluminum oxides are abundant on Mars as on Earth. Aluminium is the third most common element in the martian crust. Most aluminium is incorporated into alumina-silicates, such as feldspar.

Production of aluminium

For in-situ production, a source of aluminum ore such as alumina deposits would be very helpful in reducing the processing requirements.

Traditionally aluminum requires high electric power to reduce it from its oxides using electrolysis. Work has been going on for several decades on the carbothermic process, which uses carbon and just thermal power, to try to make it as economical on Earth as electrolytic reduction.[1] If thermal power is cheaper than electric power on Mars relative to Earth, due for example to being more suitable for an import-minimizing economy, the carbothermic process will be relatively more attractive.

Alcoa has announced in 2018 the production of aluminum using a new process that does not produce CO2 or require carbon anodes. This might be applicable on Mars.

Once it has been produced, aluminium is relatively easy to recycle and less prone to corrosion than iron and steel.

The embodied energy of aluminium is 155 MJ/kg.

Uses

  • Construction material, window and door frames
  • Mobile equipment
  • Cans

References

  1. Green, ed., 2007, Aluminum Recycling and Processing, pp. 198-9 [1]