Aluminum cans are a very common sight in everyday life. In the Earth's crust, aluminum is the most abundant metal and the third most abundant element overall. However, aluminum rarely exists naturally as the free element. The most common aluminum ore is called bauxite. At one time in history, the processing of bauxite into pure aluminum was extremely difficult and expensive. Even in the late 1800s, aluminum metal was more precious than gold. Pure aluminum was worthy of display in museums and was used only by royalty and the very wealthy. What changed between then and now? Aluminum metal is now prepared by a process called electrolysis, which consists of passing an electric current through molten aluminum oxide. In this chapter, you will learn about electrochemistry, which involves the interrelationship between electrical energy and chemical energy in redox reactions.
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