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Manufacturing Pop

Let's follow the creation of a soft drink's aluminum can to see how energy is used in all three areas of manufacturing. Before we can even think about cracking open an icy cold Gooey Grape, we have to create the container — the soft drink can — that stores the grape soda.

Energy for Raw Materials
Cans are made out of aluminum. Aluminum is the third most common element found on earth, but it isn't laying around where we can pick it up. It isn't even usually found in its pure state. Instead, we might find aluminum in a compound element called bauxite. Bauxite is found underground. We must mine it using heavy machinery. Sometimes explosives are required to break up deposits into manageable pieces. Then the bauxite is loaded onto trucks and trains and sent to a refining plant.

What do you think?
How is energy used to create aluminum from bauxite and alumina? What are some other raw materials that require processing in order to become useful for a manufacturer? How do these examples require energy?

Energy for Manufacturing Components
Bauxite is usually mixed with clay and other minerals (iron, silicon, titanium) so it has to be refined (cleaned) before it can be processed to produce aluminum. This step requires crushing, washing, and filtering the bauxite. Then the bauxite is ready for the aluminum to be chemically stripped out. The bauxite is mixed with other chemicals and a fine alumina powder is finally pulled out of the bauxite.

What do you think?
How is energy used to get bauxite from the ground to a refining plant? Can you think of other materials we have to get from the earth in order to use them in manufacturing? How do they require energy?

Once the aluminum manufacturers have the alumina powder, they have to smelt it — heat it up until it melts into a liquid. This step requires 15.7 kW of electricity to produce one kilogram of aluminum from alumina. After this, the aluminum can be rolled, extruded, hammered, cast, welded, bonded, and riveted into any number of shapes.

Energy to Assemble Goods
Perhaps the business that produced the aluminum from bauxite doesn't manufacture pop cans. They send blocks of aluminum to another business that we'll call Poptastic. Poptastic takes the aluminum, flattens it out into sheets, create a pop can, and welds the can together. Finally the cans are filled with the delicious Gooey Grape soda.

What do you think?
How is energy used at Poptastic to create a filled grape soda can? What are other products you use that have to be assembled at a factory? How is energy used in their manufacture? How could recycling change the amount of energy used in the pop can manufacturing?