Atomic Number 13 - Interesting Aluminum Facts

What Element is Atomic Number 13?

Element atomic number 13 is aluminum. While you normally encounter this metal as foil or in cans, it has many other uses.
Element atomic number 13 is aluminum. While you normally encounter this metal as foil or in cans, it has many other uses. Monty Rakusen / Getty Images

Aluminum (aluminium) is the element that is atomic number 13 on the periodic table. Its element symbol is Al and its atomic mass is 26.98. Each atom of aluminum contains 18 protons. Aluminum atoms with fewer than 18 electrons are cations, while those with more than 18 electrons are anions. The isotope of aluminum is determined by its number of neutrons. Here is a collection of interesting facts about atomic number 13.

Element Atomic Number 13 Facts

  • Pure aluminum is a soft, nonmagnetic silvery-white metal. Most people are familiar with the pure element's appearance from aluminum foil or cans. Unlike many other metals, aluminum is not very ductile, which means it isn't readily drawn into wires. Aluminum is strong, yet light compared with most other metals.
  • Aluminum is the third most abundant element in the Earth's crust (about 8%) and the most abundant metal.
  • Aluminum ore (bauxite) is mined, chemically refined into alumina (aluminum oxide) using the Bayer process, and finally refined into aluminum metal using the electrolytic Hall-Heroult process. The modern process requires considerable energy, yet it's much easier than past refining methods. It was so difficult to obtain element 13 that is was considered a precious metal. Napoleon III served dinners to his most important guests on aluminum platters, leaving lesser guests to dine using gold!
  • In 1884, the cap of the Washington Monument was made using aluminum because the metal was so highly valued at that time.
  • Only 5% of the energy needed to purify aluminum from alumina is required to recycle aluminum from scrap. In fact, you can even recycle the element at home, if you like.
  • The name for element 13 has been either aluminum or aluminium. We can blame the English chemist, Sir Humphy Davy, for the confusion. Davy initially called the element alumium in 1807, from the mineral alumina. Davy changed the name to aluminum and then finally to aluminium in 1812. The -um spelling persisted in Britain for a while, eventually changing to aluminium. Chemists in the United States actually used the -ium ending, shifting toward the -um ending in the 1900s. In the 1990's, the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry formally determined element 13 should be aluminium, yet the -um spelling persists in the U.S. It's worth noting that despite the naming controversy he caused, Davy neither discovered the element nor isolated it!
  • Although aluminum is present in over 270 minerals and is widely abundant, the element does not appear to serve a biological role in either animals or plants. The presence of aluminum salts is generally tolerated by animals and plants. However, in high doses aluminum exposure alters the function of the blood-brain barrier. Some people are allergic to aluminum. Ingesting acidic foods increases aluminum absorption, while the flavor enhancer maltol increases its accumulation in bones and nerves. Aluminum increases estrogen-related gene expression in breast cells of humans. The US Department of Health and Human Services classifies aluminum as a non-carcinogen. Whether or not aluminum is a factor in Alzheimer's disease is a matter of debate. It is unknown whether aluminum contributes to the degenerative disease or whether developing the disease results in accumulation of the element.
  • Element atomic number 13 conducts electricity, although not as well as silver, copper, or gold. If you have metal dental fillings or braces, you can experience this firsthand. When you bite on a piece of aluminum foil, the salts in saliva conduct electricity between the foil and the filling, creating a type of galvanic battery and delivering an electrical shock to your mouth.
  • Uses of aluminum are second only to those of iron and its alloys. While nearly pure aluminum may be used, the element is also alloys with copper, zinc, magnesium, manganese, and silicon. The pure element is used when corrosion resistance is paramount. Alloys are used where strength or hardness are important. Aluminum is used in beverage containers because of its corrosion resistance. The metal is used in construction, transportation, and to make everyday household items. High-purity aluminum is used in wires, electronics, and CDs. The metal is used to make reflective surfaces and paint. Some string instruments, especially guitars, have aluminum bodies. Aircraft bodies are made of aluminum alloyed with magnesium.
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Your Citation
Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "Atomic Number 13 - Interesting Aluminum Facts." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. (2020, August 27). Atomic Number 13 - Interesting Aluminum Facts. Retrieved from Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "Atomic Number 13 - Interesting Aluminum Facts." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 27, 2023).