To paraphrase a well-known quote, “When the going gets tough, the tough get aluminum.” It is especially true when related to extremely low temperatures and materials performance. Simply put, the lower the temperature, the better aluminum performs. And, unlike other metals, which can become dangerously brittle in extremely cold temperatures, aluminum, and its various alloys are more than up to the challenge, making it the material choice.
There are many reasons why aluminum and its alloys are an excellent choice for cold temperature use. Aluminum is lighter than most metals, making it easier to handle and excellent for reducing fuel consumption in the automotive, marine, transportation, and aerospace industries. It is extremely strong while also providing an excellent low weight-to-strength ratio, something that is of benefit to all industries.
The most important property of aluminum that makes it ideal for cold and extreme cold use is that it becomes even stronger when the temperature drops. In numerous tests, aluminum alloys were shown to retain ductility – the degree to which a material can sustain deformation under stress before failure – at extremely low temperatures with no increase in brittleness. In fact, even the corrosion resistance of aluminum and its alloys is enhanced during these conditions, making it best suited for use in snow and ice without fear of breakdown due to contact with moisture. Aluminum is also very suitable for the cryogenic industry because of these benefits of aluminum products.
The properties of many metals and plastics change when exposed to very low temperatures. These changes take place in relation to material strength, toughness, brittleness, and durability. Shattering is more likely to have negative consequences, compared with deforming, and at very low temperature steels tend to be more sensitive to impacts, with a risk of breaking in case of a sudden shock or bending.
So, how low can temperatures go? Consider that the lowest natural temperature ever directly recorded at ground level on planet Earth is −89.2°C which occurred at the Soviet Vostok Station in Antarctica on July 21st, 1983. Beyond Earth’s atmosphere, things are getting even more frigid and as the universe continues to expand. Space is colder now than it has ever been, and it is only going to get colder. The scientific community uses the Kelvin scale when taking readings in space, where you will find the temperature to be at 0 K or absolute zero. Converted to Celsius and Fahrenheit, which would register as -273 and -495 degrees, respectively. That was why SpaceX reached out to Minalex several years ago for manufacturing aluminum extrusions that would perform flawlessly in its rockets.
If your next project involves cold temperatures and can benefit from the many advantages that parts extruded with aluminum offer, contact us today and discover the possibilities.