The Aluminium Life Circle


An aluminium alloy can be as strong as steel

The museum's test of the big Audi A8 from 2002 shows that aluminium can be as strong as steel. The car you see here was an advanced construction with aluminium chassis and bodywork. This has made it possible to keep the weight down. Lower weight means lower fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.

The museum's Audi A8 was cut in half and an attempt was then made to flatten it out completely with a 13 tonne vibrating steamroller. The steamroller had to drive over the car a number of times to get the result you see here.

Using aluminium in cars is a focus area for the industry. Aluminium reduces the car's weight without compromising the amount it can withstand. In addition, aluminium has better qualities than steel when it comes to rigidity and collision safety.

The use of aluminium in the form of plates and extruded solutions has increased from year to year for a long time.

Board 1

As time passes by, aluminium remains

The rims of your new car may have been your grandmother's coffee pot. Few materials have a longer lifespan than aluminium. It can be recycled over and over without deteriorating. Therefore, your grandmother's coffee pot may have been reincarnated as new rims, or maybe your sunglasses have been a toaster in a past life.

Aluminum is the art of opportunity and the metal of the future
It is light and strong
It is malleable
It conducts power
It has a long lifespan
It can be recycled for eternity

Welcome to the Aluminium Museum

Board 2

  • Aluminium is the third most common element, and the most widely used
  • Aluminium does not occur in pure form and must be extracted
  • Aluminium production starts with the extraction of the clay mineral bauxite
  • The richest bauxite is found in tropical regions in South America, Australia and Africa
  • Bauxite is found a few meters below the earth’s crust
  • Alumina (aluminium oxide) is extracted from bauxite utilizing lye (caustic soda)
  • Alumina is used to produce aluminium through electrolysis
  • The whole process, from bauxite extraction to alumina, causes several environmental problems
  • Bauxite extraction involves the removal of vegetation, rock and clay, and interventions in nature are large
  • Extraction of alumina from bauxite leaves large amounts of so-called “red mud”
  • Depositing vast amounts of red mud consumes a lot of space and there is the possibility of leakage into the environment
  • Although red mud is washed and filtered before it ends up in landfill, it still contains harmful heavy metals and a great amount of lye
  • As long as recycling doesn’t meet the demand for aluminium, bauxite extraction and oxide production will continue to constitute a dilemma for the industry
  • Several measures however, have been implemented to reduce the impact on the environment
  • Extensive reforestation programs and a focus on recycling are reducing the environmental impact

Board 3

  • Aluminum was first manufactured by the Danish scientist Hans Christian Ørsted in 1825
  • In the 1850s, aluminum was worth more than gold
  • In the late 1880s industrial aluminum production was made possible
  • Austrian Karl Bayer discovered how aluminum oxide could be produced in large quantities
  • The American Charles Hall and Frenchman Paul Heroult independently discovered how aluminum could be made by electrolysis
  • Up until the 1890s, aluminum factories were founded in the USA, Switzerland, France and the United Kingdom
  • In 1908, the British company Baco started aluminum production in Norway
  • Affordable hydropower attracted foreign companies to establish an aluminum industry in Norway.
  • Today it’s the other way around. The Norwegian aluminum industry is dominated by Hydro, which invests abroad

Board 4


  • Aluminium is produced by electrolysis of alumina (aluminium oxide)
  • 4-7 tonnes of bauxite = 2 tonnes of alumina = 1 tonne of aluminium
  • The aluminium atom in the white oxide powder is bound to oxygen. This band must be broken by electrolysis to obtain the metal aluminium
  • The process takes place in electrolytic cells (large vessels) at the aluminium plants
  • The largest aluminium plants have more than 1000 electrolytic cells connected in series
  • In the cells, alumina is dissolved in an electrolytic bath (which conducts electrical current) together with cryolite
  • A strong direct current (DC) is then run between a negative cathode and a positive anode
  • The anodes are made of carbon weighing about 1 tonne. There are up to 40 anodes in each cell
  • The anodes are immersed in the melt, and are consumed during the process
  • The entire cell bottom and sides are lined with carbon and acts as the cathode
  • The negative oxide ions are drawn towards the positive anode forming CO2
  • The positive aluminium ions are drawn towards the negative cathode and become aluminium
  • The liquid metal sinks to the bottom of the electrolytic vessel and is drained therefrom

Board 5

  • The large melting furnaces in the foundry are like the heart of a volcano. The intense heat keeps the metal flowing
  • Liquid aluminium is cast into bars, press bolts and roller blocks in the form of various alloys
  • Adding small amounts of metals changes the qualities of the aluminium
  • It is most common to add copper, magnesium and silicon
  • Mixed properly, an aluminium alloy can be as strong as steel, while its weight is only one-third
  • Aluminium alloys are often used in designs and products where low weight and rust safety (resistance?) are required
  • The alloys can provide greater strength, gloss and ductility, depending on what the metal is being used for
  • In Holmestrand, roll blocks are made of recycled aluminium. Weight and length vary, but normally the blocks are 7. 05 metres long x 1. 30 metres wide. The thickness is 33 cm and the weight is around 8400 kg
  • Between 45 and 55 roll blocks are cast every day in Holmestrand

Board 6

Read this one in the museum.

Board 7

  • Aluminium is processed in cold or heated condition
  • There is a distinction between hot and cold rolling mills
  • The aluminium is treated while hot in the hot rolling mill. It makes the metal flexible and easy to shape. The process is called rough rolling
  • Further processing and reduction to aluminium sheets and strips takes place in the cold rolling mill
  • The sheets and strips get different widths and thicknesses depending on the use
  • A sheet ingot can be rolled from a thickness of 60 cm to foil just 0.006 mm thick
  • The metal itself forms a protective oxide coating and is very rust proof
  • Different types of surface treatment can further enhance these properties
  • In Holmestrand, Hydro operates an advanced paint plant in addition to the rolling mill
  • Lacquering gives you an unlimited range of colours, with varying shine and consistent colour rendering
  • The lacquering plant in Holmestrand is one of few in the world able to paint both sides of the strips simultaneously
  • Holmestrand supplies rolled and lacquered aluminium sheets and strips for building products, food packaging, multilayer pipes and tealight cups

Board 8

Read this one in the museum.

Board 9

  • Aluminium is all around us in everyday life…
  • Aluminium in cars
  • Aluminium at sea
  • Aluminium in buildings
  • Aluminium as packaging
  • Aluminium as protection
  • Aluminium in the energy industry
  • Aluminium in furniture
  • Aluminium in trains
  • Aluminium in aircraft
  • Aluminium in bicycles
  • Aluminium foil in beverage cartons
  • Aluminium in print shops
  • Aluminium in household appliances
  • Aluminium in interiors
  • Aluminium in architecture
  • Aluminium in art
  • Aluminium in laptops
  • Aluminium in phones