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Aluminum Scrap Testing and Recycling

Test Scrap Aluminum in Seconds with a Bruker® XRF Gun

Aluminum Scrap Testing with Bruker Handheld XRF

Scrap aluminum recycling is of great industrial importance because it is the most efficient source of aluminum production. Bruker ® aluminum scrap testing guns are industry leaders when it comes to reliable, accurate and efficient aluminum verification. Use the contact from right now to request information, a free demo, or a prompt quote!

Recycling uses only 5% of the energy required to produce new aluminum from bauxite ore. Nearly 40% of all the metal produced in the US comes from scrap. From the scrapyard to smelting to alloy manufacture, accurate testing of the composition scrap aluminum and new aluminum products is required to verify alloy grades and quality. You can count on Bruker’s handheld S1 TITAN aluminum scrap tester to make scrap aluminum sorting a breeze. Please get in touch with us today to find out how Bruker’s instruments can fulfill your Al scrap analysis needs.

Aluminum Scrap Recycling

One ton of aluminum recycled from scrap saves around 8 metric tons of bauxite, which is equivalent to approximately 14000 kWh of energy. Scrap processing contributes only sparingly to atmospheric and dust emissions. While scrap-melting may release harmful pollutants, the emissions are minimized by standard methods, such as flue gas treatment. Today’s technology enables the Al recycling process to achieve similar purity standards in primary aluminum alloys and in secondary (i.e. recycled) alloys. However, this largely depends on the quality of the scrap collected. High-quality Al scrap is key.

In spite of it being one of the most abundant elements on earth, metallic aluminum does not occur naturally. It is primarily obtained from bauxite. The Bayer Process and the Hall-Heroult Process are used for extracting and refining aluminum, respectively. However, recycling aluminum scrap is of comparable obtaining the metal for industry. Recycling is energy-efficient, cost-effective, and helps optimize the use of landfill space. Amid concerns for ecological viability, Al recycling has become an especially favored method of Al manufacture.

Use the contact form at the top of this page to find out today how Bruker’s handheld XRF analytical instruments can serve your scrap and secondary aluminum testing needs.

Recycling Trends in Industry

Production of secondary aluminum is currently speeding up in Europe, unlike in the US, where the pace has been relatively steady. In 2014, production of secondary Al from Europe accounted for more than 3 million metric tons, with 1.5 million metric tons coming from Germany and Italy. It is interesting to note that Italy doubled its production almost drastically at the turn of the decade to become the primary producer of secondary Al in Europe. Similarly, while Austria, Hungry and Spain continue to expand their production, France and the Netherlands present a disquieting picture. In contrast, Norway, since 1998, recorded a fourfold increase in production, only to slow down anew towards 2014.

The surge in recycling trends in industry is due to a number of reasons. While the idea of recycling has long been popular, never before has it impacted the industrial echelons to such an extent as to reverse and revamp their models of Al production with urgency. The world is experiencing a dynamic ecological awakening. In particular, millennial consumers, who are now at the forefront of global commerce, are highly conscientious when it comes to sustainability. The growing relevance of social media, where young minds constantly receive environmental updates in news, memes and videos, has left a lasting impression on people. As a result, the demand for recycled aluminum has dramatically compelled the industrial world to sit up and take note.

By solving aluminum scrap sorting needs and helping maintain high standards in the aluminum recycling sphere, Bruker’s scrap aluminum scanners not only serve industry but also contribute to climate amelioration. Send us a message today to learn more!

Aluminum Scrap in More Detail

Scrap, in the form of rolled aluminum in beverage cans, vehicles and buildings, can last for up to 0.2 years, 15 years and 50 years respectively. To begin with, buildings alone account for over 85% of all scrap AI collected. Europe recycled around 28 billion used beverage cans in 2016. Measuring the recycling rate of aluminum is the best way to gauge its efficiency. Accordingly, the recycling rate of Al from automobiles (as alloy wheels and other mixed scrap) stood at 91% in 2017.

There are several reasons why the transport sector is the minefield of aluminum recycling. However, the most significant source of valuable end-of-life aluminum is recycled scrap vehicles. Professional recyclers first drain the automotive fluids. Next, they distribute the hazardous and top-grade components to consumers or other interested parties. Then, scrap from alloy wheels and other relevant parts are sold to aluminum scrap dealers. Finally, the dealers send the remaining scrap to shredders.

Are you in the aluminum scrap business? Then a Bruker handheld XRF scrap aluminum tester is the instrument of choice for Al verification needs.

Methods of Aluminum Scrap Treatment

Scrap Comminution

Comminution is the reduction of the size aluminum scrap items by methods of crushing, grinding, cutting, vibrating, and so on. The purpose of comminution is to control the various shapes and sizes of aluminum scrap items, thereby helping eliminate a slew of undesirable materials such as rubber, magnesium and zinc, to name to only a few. There are various types of machines and equipment available for scrap treatment, such as rotary shears, translator shears, rotary cutters and rotary shredders. The industry counts particularly on swing-hammer shredders for comminution. The choice of equipment and the way it is operated plays a major role in improving the comminution process. For example, energy consumption can be reduced by increasing angular speed, which means that swing-hammer shredders should always be operated at maximum velocity.

Aluminum Scrap Sorting

Recycling efficiency can only be increased with proper scrap sorting, which in turn depends on Al scrap separation. Accordingly, given the high demand for Al scrap, advanced sorting technologies need to be used for sorting wrought and cast aluminum scrap alloys. There are several standard methods, such as magnetic separation, air separation, eddy current, hand or manual sorting, thermal sorting, image analysis etc., that help achieve this.

In magnetic separation, the collected scrap is made to pass on a conveyor belt. Gradually, the scrap comes within the field of a Neodymium magnet which attracts the ferromagnetic materials, separating them from the nonferrous metal materials. However, the remaining scrap may still be mixed and moreover may contain trace elements.

An eddy current separator uses a powerful magnetic field to isolate non-ferrous metals from waste once all ferrous material has been extracted by magnets. Eddy current systems involve the induction of eddy currents in the metals – a highly popular mechanism today because it enables the retrieving of top-grade metals. An eddy current is a localized electric current induced in a conductor by means of a varying magnetic field.
An eddy current separator device is normally used on conveyor belt moving a thin layer of mixed metal waste. An eddy current rotor is placed the conveyor’s end. Non-ferrous metals are separated forward from the bet into a container, while non-metallic waste tumbles off the belt by gravity.

Another sorting process, known as de-coating, involves the removal of paint, paper, plastic and oil from aluminum scrap. De-coating improves the overall efficiency of the sorting process. There are two kinds of de-coating. De-coating with the help of a reagent is used to obtain high-purity content from a metal bath. On the other hand, thermal de-coating causes the combustion of carbon-containing materials.

Hot crush sorting is a thermomechanical method that difference in the properties of casting and wrought aluminum alloys to separate the two. Developed by the U.S. Bureau of Mines, this approach makes use of the low eutectic temperature in aluminum casting alloys. When Al scrap is heated to 520- 560º Celsius, the casting alloys see a great drop in mechanical properties due to intergranular melting. The wrought alloys do not exbibit this change under similar heating. As the size of the casting alloys present in the aluminum scrap diminishes, they can be separated from the wrought fraction by mechanical screening.

While the hand sorting of aluminum scrap continues to be widely used, its high labor intensity and its error-proneness are problematic. Therefore, the industry has been gravitating toward reliance on highly innovative solutions, such as handheld XRF analysis, to facilitate scrap sorting. (Write to us via the contact form today to learn more!)

Aluminum Scrap Melting

The process of melting aluminum scrap begins with selecting a furnace most appropriate to the task. There are several types of furnaces available. An electric furnace is the recommended choice for improved metal purity and reduced dross. A reverberatory furnace provides greater energy-efficiency and is low-maintenance. A rotary furnace, although expensive and difficult to maintain, is typically used for melting dross. Moreover, the melting process is complex and calls for expertise.

The process of choosing the right furnace for scrap aluminum melting depends on numerous factors. For instance, where the energy cost is high, the degree of energy-efficiency is the overriding concern. Consequently, European aluminum recyclers depends more on rotary furnaces than reverberatory furnaces because the latter are relatively less energy-efficient. On the other hand, in the US, more than 95% of scrap is melted in reverberatory furnaces, thanks to their affordability and operational ease. Furthermore, metal yield and production volume can affect the equipment choices for aluminum scrap melting.

Regardless of the process used, quality concerns require that the chemical composition of the materials in question be monitored during all stages of the process, for which purpose Bruker’s handheld XRF is the solution of choice. Contact us today to discuss your analytical needs!

Aluminum Slag Testing

There are two kinds of slag: dross and salt slag. When the aluminum content in the residue is below 45%, the slag is called dross. Dross is further categorized into white dross and black dross, the former chiefly coming from the primary smelter, the latter from secondary refiners. Typically, Al content in white dross (15% to 70%) is higher than in black dross (12% to 18%). However, the salt content in black dross is significantly higher than in white dross. So far as salt slag is concerned, it is usually classified according to its varying levels of toxicity. The European Waste Catalogue (EWC) has classified salt slag into highly flammable, irritant, harmful, and leachable. It is important to note that salt slag, upon coming in contact with water, emits harmful gases (such as PH3, NH4, H2, H2S etc.) which are not favorable to the environment. Moreover, the management of salt cake from recycled aluminum has underlying economic implications.

Burker’s handheld XRF testguns easily analyze the chemical composition of aluminum slag, regardless of its type. Send us a message without delay to learn further detail!

The Future of Aluminum Recycling

Companies such as Apple, PepsiCo and Coca Cola are today keener than ever to invest in greener alternatives. Apple, for instance, has announced that its iPhones and Apple Watches must include components made of recycled aluminum scrap. The company has also claimed to have reduced emissions by around 45%. Similarly, Coca Cola has embraced recycled scrap aluminum by announcing that 70% of all its Al packaging will be made of repurposed Al. Several companies have started selling beverages in ecofriendly cans. China has already pledged to do away with low-grade plastics in favor of recycling. Technology continues to play a key role in Al recycling. For instance, digital twinning has been extended to the industrial realm for improved monitoring of production and real-time simulation of the process, start to end. Furnace technology has improved considerably. Today, reverberatory and rotary furnaces account for more than 90% of Al scrap melting in the industry. Furthermore, the amount of scrap recycled today in Europe is around 20% higher than in 2012. Similarly, the volume of aluminum scrap usage by smelters in Europe has shot up by 5%. Industry observers have identified the automotive sector as the highest contributor to advanced Al recycling. Instead of producing the metal in its primary form, 95% of aluminum from end-of-life cars can be recycled. Specifically, the preference for closed-loop recycling is on the rise. As distinct from downcycling, closed loop recycling consists in recycling and reusing materials iteratively, keeping the material engaged in a loop arrangement economy. Leading automotive brands such as Jaguar Land Rover and Ford have been investing heavily in closed-loop recycling centers on their respective premises.

All this does not mean that there are no persistent challenges. The widening gap between post-industrial and post-consumer recycling must be closed as soon as possible. Technically, there are considerable obstacles to achieving that. The dross, or salt cake, generated by Al recycling must be disposed of very carefully. Loaded with carbides, sulfides and phosphides, the ‘cake’ is highly toxic for living organisms. Furthermore, recycling depends on cumbersome machines that consume a high volume of coal and petroleum. The melting process alone emits a slew of harmful gases such as dioxides, hydrogen chloride, and particulate matter.
It is worth noting that nowadays primary aluminum is generally used in products of long-term serviceability. Windows alone have a lifespan of 50 years. Cars, too, have a lifespan of at least 20 years. (Automobiles are the biggest contributors to Al scrap recycling). In the same way, more than 70% of primary aluminum currently in use will not be recycled for a long time. As a result, several industry observers have argued that our shared dependence on recycled Al must be supplemented by primary aluminum for some years to come. Post-consumer scrap accounts for not more than 20% of the demand for aluminum in industry.

More often than not, industry propaganda focuses on the ecological negligence of end consumers. However, the truth is that the degree of pollution and waste generation in manufacturing and production is much higher than what consumers are responsible for. The current high demand for recycled aluminum is no mere fad. With the leading names in the business world pledging their dedication to greener assembly lines, recycled aluminum scrap is indeed the future. The idea of ‘environmental sustainability’ continues to assume deeper significance against the context of ongoing climate change, rising sea-levels, and unchecked population growth. The ever-increasing dependence on natural resources continues to take a toll on the planet. As a result, wherever possible, aluminum recycling and repurposing must be prioritized. At the same time, given the challenges inherent in Al recycling, we can no longer count on traditional patterns of thinking. Needless to say, we cannot simply dispose of existing recycling practices altogether. Still, the need of the hour is to enhance the current methods with advanced technology. Eventually, all aluminum scrap must be kept from reaching landfills and brought back into the production cycle in a sustainable manner. (Just in 2018 alone, the United States by itself was responsible for squandering $800 million of worth of aluminum cans in landfills.)

While Bruker cannot solve all the problems associated with aluminum scrap and recycling, analytical instruments do solve the problem of aluminum scrap testing 100%. Please contact us promptly for a prompt response!

Industries we Influence
Metallurgy, Aero Space, Scrap and Recycling, Food Processing, Plumbing, Petrochemicals Metallurgy, Aero Space, Scrap and Recycling, Food Processing, Plumbing, Petrochemicals

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