An Unusual Use For Corrugated Aluminum
Corrugated aluminum has been around for a long time, and enjoys many uses as a cheap, strong, workable and durable construction material. Corrugated material is used for roofing, siding, fencing, and for many other applications, It can be found in the construction of upscale homes or the most simplistic sheds or shacks.
Corrugated aluminum is simply aluminum sheeting that is bent into a series of small curves as it passes through a roller. One of the principles in producing any kind of corrugated metal is it must be bendable at room temperature, otherwise the cost of production would be excessive. Also, the bending must be done without sacrificing the strength of the aluminum or appreciably changing the width of the sheet at the bend. As the sheet aluminum passes through the rollers and the bend is made, the thickness at the bend will be lessened slightly, but only very slightly and not enough affect the strength of the aluminum.
Limitations - The primary limitation in corrugating any metal is how much of a bend the metal can tolerate without being weakened. Aluminum, being quite ductile, can tolerate a fairly tight bend. The bend is always along the path of a curve and never at a sharp angle. As far as the total length of a rolled and corrugated sheet is concerned, the only limitation to how long a sheet can be is determined by how manageable it will be to handle. The very widest rolling machines can produce sheets or rolls of corrugated aluminum up to 6' wide, while very specialized machines will produce strips as narrow as 1/8". As far as the thickness of a sheet of aluminum that can be corrugated is concerned, 3/4" is about the maximum thickness, while corrugated aluminum sheets as thin as 5/1000 of an inch have been produced by special machinery.
Aluminum Heat Wheels - On of the lesser known and more unusual uses of corrugated aluminum is in heat pumps. The aluminum heat pump components consist of a roll of tightly packed corrugated aluminum sheeting. The corrugated surfaces give the roll a honeycombed appearance. The corrugations serve to cool air forced through the wheel in some environments while warming the air in other environments due to the heat conduction properties of aluminum. While corrugated aluminum heat pumps have been on the scene for nearly 20 years they have mostly been put to use in Europe, especially in Finland, where a heat pump system can economically help keep a home or office warm during the frigid winter weather months, and conversely help keep the same structure cooler during hot summer days.
The corrugated aluminum roll which is a part of the heat pump system is called a heat wheel. Early heat wheels were too large to be practical for use in residences, often being nearly the size of a small room. Today's technology has enabled heat wheels that can help heat or cool an average size room to be held in one hand. Such corrugated aluminum heat wheels are beginning to find their way into air conditioning systems, and are beginning to become an integral part of the green technology push in several countries.
There are many different variations in the way corrugated aluminum is manufactured, corresponding to the many different ways it can be used. Obviously the bends and angles of curvature of the corrugations can vary widely in size and shape, from semi-circular to nearly square (with rounded corners nevertheless), and from shallow to fairly deep. The aluminum can be treated for use in different climates and environments, and when used as part of an exterior or interior design, can be produced in various colors. Lightweight, strong, and inexpensive, as well as being more environmentally friendly than some other metals, corrugated aluminum is likely to be with us for many different purposes for a long time.