Aluminium would make possible the wonders of commercial aviation and space exploration. It would revolutionise food and beverage packaging and—with the advent of aluminium windows, curtainwall, and siding—transform the modern construction industry.
Not to mention how it helps save tailpipe emissions through its use in light-weighting cars and trucks.
Even before Hall’s discovery, savvy minds knew of aluminium’s great potential. Hall’s Oberlin College Chemistry Professor, Frank Jewett, for one, told his students: “Any person who discovers a process by which aluminium can be made on a commercial scale will bless humanity and make a fortune for himself.”
Hall set about a series of experiments in a woodshed behind his parents’ rural Ohio house—culminating in his discovery nine months after graduation of the electrolytic reduction method for producing primary aluminium.
By passing an electric current through a carbon crucible filled with a cryolite bath containing alumina—producing a congealed mass that contained pure aluminium within—the precocious 22-year-old had achieved what had eluded scientists for decades.
That same process is used to this day by aluminium companies to produce aluminium from ore.
Hall’s work had only begun, however. He would patent the process, found a company—the Pittsburgh Reduction Company (precursor to today’s Alcoa)—and manufacture aluminium cookware to help establish a nascent market for the metal.
Aluminium’s utility across a wide swath of product applications is, by now, well understood by the American consumer,” said Aluminium Association President Steve Larkin