DENNIS KUNKEL MICROSCOPY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY DENNIS KUNKEL MICROSCOPY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Scanning electron micrograph (SEM) of aluminium oxide microspheres. Aluminium is the most abundant metal in the on Earth. It makes up about 8% by weight of the Earth's solid surface. Aluminium is too reactive chemically to occur in nature as a free metal. Instead it is found combined in over 270 different minerals. The main source of aluminium is bauxite ore. Approximately 95% of the world's bauxite production is processed first into alumina (aluminium oxide, Al2O3), and then into aluminium by electrolysis. Aluminium resists corrosion due to passivation and low density. Its reactive nature makes it useful as a catalyst or additive in chemical mixtures, including toothpaste and ammonium nitrate explosives. Aluminium is also widely used in the fabrication of superconducting devices, particularly single electron transistors and superconducting quantum devices. Magnification: x2,400 when shortest axis printed at 25 millimetres.
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