Engine block for Rover car, c 1996.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
An engine made from cast aluminium. Many cars have aluminium engines as this makes them lighter and therefore more fuel-efficient. During casting, reclaimed aluminium is added to molten aluminium, so it is likely that this engine may contain metal that was once part of another car. Although the third most abundant element in the Earth's crust, aluminium was not isolated until 1825, by Hans Christian oersted (1777-1851). Pure aluminium is soft and ductile, but when combined with other metals, it forms strong alloys. This, together with its lightnes, resistance to corrosion and electrical conductivity, makes aluminium suitable for a wide range of uses, from aircraft and vehicle construction, to window frames, overhead power cables and food packaging.