Fluorine is among the Industrial Revolution’s most important chemicals. Aluminum is the most abundant metal in the earth’s crust, making up about 8% of it. Iron is second at 5%. Oxygen and silicon are the most abundant crust elements, comprising 47% and 28% respectively. Aluminum was not used in civilization until the late 19th century, because it was difficult to effectively extract and refine. Even today, most aluminum is not commercially obtainable because it is usually bound up in silicon compounds called silicates. Bauxite, a class of aluminum oxides, is the primary source of aluminum ore. It was not until 1886 that a method was discovered to economically refine aluminum. The process was to dissolve bauxite in cryolite, a ten-atom molecule composed of one aluminum, three sodium, and six fluorine atoms. The mix was then charged with electricity in an electrolysis process, which separated the aluminum. That process is still the main one used today. The process needs electricity, cryolite, and bauxite. When the aluminum is removed, sodium fluoride is the main byproduct, and it is a deadly poison.
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