How metallurgical-grade silicon improves the aluminum alloy industry

by Team HPQ

The use of aluminum metal in construction has grown tremendously over the last few decades because of growing urbanization and the commercialization of increasingly innovative and adaptive aluminum alloys.

Aluminum alloys are chemical compositions that see elements added to a pure aluminum base. These alloys can be utilized for many unique industrial applications, thanks to the flexibility of aluminum as a casting material. It’s this flexibility that’s enabled aluminum to become among the favorite metals industrial professionals use.

Aluminum-silicon alloys, or silumin as it’s colloquially known, often utilize high-purity metallurgically produced silicon (98% pure or greater) to improve the metal’s chemical characteristics.

Silumin exhibits a lighter weight than regular aluminum or other competing traditional metals, such as steel or titanium. Adding high purity silicon to aluminum causes the metal to deteriorate more slowly. It also gives the metal a lower thermal expansion temperature, improving the casting melt’s fluidity. Finally, silicon decreases contraction during the alloy’s solidification process while adding malleability and strength.


The automotive industry uses silumin as a replacement for steel in vehicle frames, among other things. (NASA)

HPQ Silicon will use its proprietary PUREVAP™ technology to produce the metallurgical grade silicon often utilized in aluminum alloys. The produced silicon will exhibit 98% or greater purity, qualifying it as a metallurgical grade and preparing it to be used in an alloy.

Aluminum-silicon alloys have become highly practical materials in transportation and infrastructure. The automotive industry uses silumin as a replacement for steel in vehicle frames, among other things. Steel may be more durable than aluminum, but it’s also incredibly dense, weighing down vehicle bodies and reducing fuel efficiency.

Swapping heavy metals for an aluminum-silicon alloy may slightly reduce vehicle durability, but not by enough to offset the industrial benefits of shedding product weight. Aluminum alloys are especially crucial for electric vehicles, which rely on being lightweight to not hinder their battery and mobility.

The aviation and rail transit industries feature the same story. Japan’s Shinkansen bullet trains use aluminum alloys as a primary manufacturing material. The lighter metal reduces aerobic friction, improving speed, reducing fuel cost, and greenhouse gas emissions. Even spacecraft use aluminum alloys because of the highly efficient strength-to-weight ratio.

In addition to transit, aluminum alloys are used for all sorts of construction purposes. Aluminum is resistant to corrosion, making it ideal for structural supports. The lighter weight of the metal also means building foundations don’t need to be built as deep, since there is less weight needing to be supported. The metal is also relatively thermal efficient.

Market prospects of the aluminum alloy industry are highly optimistic.

A market forecast conducted by Global Market Insights suggests significant growth is imminent, estimating that the net worth of the aluminum alloy market will surpass 150 billion dollars USD by 2024. A wide range of adaptable alloys, global trade activities, population growth, and increased urbanization will continue to drive the success of the aluminum alloy industry.

This is further bolstered by the industry’s material dominance in construction and transit infrastructure.

Innovations in the aluminum alloy industry, such as the utilization of metallurgical grade silicon metal, positively impact the market conditions of many related industries. Raising the quality of aluminum alloys encourages manufacturers to make the switch to aluminum to produce better goods. These improved products then offer greater consumer satisfaction, further driving the demand for aluminum alloys.

To illustrate this with an example: a car manufacturer switches from producing cars with steel to silumin, reducing the weight of the vehicle and improving fuel efficiency. Consumers, taking advantage of reduced fuel costs, purchase the silumin vehicle, further increasing the demand for aluminum alloys.

High purity, metallurgically produced silicon metal from HPQ Silicon offers excellent benefits to the aluminum alloy industry. Embracing innovative alloys will help ensure the aluminum industry remains dominant in construction for decades to come.

HPQ Silicon is a Quebec-based TSX Venture Exchange Tier 1 Industrial Issuer. With the support of world-class technology partners PyroGenesis Canada and NOVACIUM SAS, the company is developing new green processes crucial to make the critical materials needed to reach net zero emissions.