Anyone who works with aluminum understands that it has a long list of advantages that make it one of the most important metals in use today. The list of industries that have been transformed by the use of aluminum is long (and getting longer). That’s not to say that aluminum is a perfect material. In fact, sometimes the properties that can be advantageous in certain applications are a detriment in other applications.
This is especially the case when it comes to aluminum’s superior ability to conduct heat. While normally a benefit, in certain applications it is not desirable to allow heat to be transferred, such as with energy efficient windows. Fortunately, there are a number of modern techniques that can be utilized to reinforce, bolster, or alter the metal’s thermal conductivity as necessary.
To learn more about thermally improved aluminum extrusions, contact a professional and friendly expert from Clinton Aluminum today.
Aluminum is famous for its thermal conductivity
Among the common metals, there’s only one that is better at conducting heat than aluminum, and that is copper. Following aluminum, brass, steel, and bronze are all well below on the list. It should also be noted that we are talking about pure versions of these metals. Different alloys of the same metal can vary greatly in terms of thermal conductivity, so it is important to know exactly what specifications your application requires when selecting an alloy.
There are a lot of important applications, and even entire industries, that depend on aluminum because of its ability to transfer heat. The most obvious example is heat exchangers. In many instances, where weight is not a consideration, copper will be the best choice.
However, especially in electronic devices and other high tech applications, the lighter weight of aluminum is essential. In such cases, these types of exchanges are known as heat sinks, because their job is to absorb the heat generated by the motors or electrical components within the device, and then either to disperse it away from the machine or to transfer it to a moving coolant fluid. Computers will typically rely on heat sinks to keep the central processing units or graphics processors at tolerable temperatures. Aluminum heat sinks can also be found in power transistors, lasers, and LEDs.
Of course, one other benefit of using aluminum versus copper is that it is significantly cheaper.
Thermal conductivity is not always a desirable property
There are times when being able to transfer heat is not what you want. It may be that you need to prevent heat from getting through or keep it contained in a certain area. In such cases, there are plenty of other metals that might be a better choice, such as steel.
What if you are looking to take advantage of the many beneficial properties that aluminum has to offer and the only drawback is its thermal conductivity? Thankfully, there are many technical advances that have been developed that can overcome the problem described above. One such advancement is known as thermally improved aluminum extrusions.
What do we mean by thermally improved aluminum?
As effective as aluminum is at efficiently conducting heat, there are times when you actually need to block heat transfer. One option is to use thermal breaks. These breaks make it possible for designers to better control the flow of heat in an application.
For example, aluminum is a great, cheap option for use in window frames, door frames, and refrigerator systems, which will often employ aluminum because of its light weight and high strength-to-weight ratio, not to mention its aesthetic appearance. Thermal breaks make it possible to insulate the cold space from the warm space as necessary
There are two main types of extrusion systems that will allow for this type of thermal improvement in aluminum. The first type is what is known as a pour and debridge system. This is a three-step process in which an aluminum profile is extruded so that there is a channel that will allow it to contain an insulating polymer.
Next, a two-part polymer is poured into the channel. Upon hardening, it will form a strong insulating element. The metal bridge is then removed from the bottom of the channel, and so you now have two separate pieces of aluminum connected by a non-metal thermal barrier. Thus the name of the process is pour and debridge.
The second option involves using an insulating strut. A tool known as a knurling wheel is used to create teeth in an extruded profile. These teeth will be joined to a strip, insuring the composite profile has enough shear strength. The parts are connected using three sets of wheels to rotate the extrusion onto the strip, thus mechanically locking the components.
In total, more than 1,300 pounds of pressure will be applied during the process, so that not only are the parts securely locked together, but the assembly can actually serve as a load-bearing composite. Thus, you are connecting two separate aluminum pieces with the non-metallic strut, so that the aluminum is adequately insulated.
Even just these two methods offer a tremendous amount of versatility for designers and manufacturers. Of course, there are many other options for thermally improving aluminum extrusions, depending on the specific application requirements.
Your Technical Resources Partner
Aluminum is such a versatile metal, an attribute that might be a positive in one industry can become a negative in another. With all of the different options and alloys available, it’s possible to tailor your aluminum to match your specific application requirements. Of course, having a metal supplier you can trust goes a long way to helping you optimize your operations.
Clinton Aluminum does more than stock a wide variety of aluminum sheet and plate made from the most popular and desirable aluminum alloys. Our goal is to partner with our customers, to ensure that they are getting just the right material for their manufacturing needs. Our dedicated technical professionals have proven experience assisting our customers at every step of the production process.
Contact us today to learn more about how Clinton Aluminum can help your business succeed.