In October 2013, researchers from the University of Oregon and Oregon State University developed the first platform to fully study aqueous aluminum. Aluminum is one of the most abundant metals on the planet and is rarely, if even found in its natural form. The metal is found in electronics, manufacturing, agriculture and almost every field and the results from this study will have significant impact on all of them.
Aluminum extraction was started back in the 1500s by German-Swiss physician Paracelsus; he found a way to separate soil from an unnamed oxide, and in the 18th century, German chemist Andreas Marggraf named it ‘alumina’, the Latin word for astringent. While the scientific community was made aware of the new discovery, it was not really recognized because to find it in pure form was rare. For years, scientists tried to extract the oxide and it wasn’t until the early 20th century that the problem was solved and the metal was reproduced.
Second only to iron, aluminum has become one of the most important metals in human history and is 100 percent recyclable. Manufactured aluminum is used for cooking utensils, light weight aircraft and industrial parts, electronics and even agriculture and water purification; aluminum sulfate are added to water to remove phosphates. With this platform, scientists will be able to understand more about the clusters formed when aluminum meets water.
Some of these clusters may impact thin film production and can be useful in making transistors, corrosion protection, and solar cells. For example, the demand for alternative energy sources is increasing and the cost of photovoltaic systems, such as solar panels continues to become more affordable. The idea that the this research could lead to more efficient ways of converting solar radiation to electricity could lead to more global adoption and use of solar energy.
With this type of potentially wide ranging impact, these two colleges in Oregon, out of the many that exist, as well as some of the best geology schools that choose to participate in this type of research could see increased funding from a variety of industries interested in capitalizing on the research. For students, this means more opportunities to be a part of cutting edge research that will have a positive impact on their future career options.
If you are interested in geology, here is an article on a list of great schools you can choose from. Enjoy.