Science & Technology

The Story of Aluminium Foil

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Alfred Gautschi of Gontenschwil, Switzerland was the first to produce aluminium foil in 1903, using the well-known pack rolling process, informs Prof. Ashoka. A Different Truths exclusive.

Aluminium foil is defined as sheets of aluminium that are less than 0.2 mm thick. Household foil is even thinner, typically 0.016 mm or 0.024 mm. Approximately 75 per cent of aluminium foil is used for packaging foods, cosmetics and chemical products. The rest is used in industrial applications. The term aluminium foil was popularised by Reynolds Metals, the leading manufacturer in North America.

Metallic aluminium became available in large quantities in 1888. Alfred Gautschi of Gontenschwil, Switzerland was the first to produce aluminium foil in 1903, using the well-known pack rolling process. Gautschi stacked a number of thin aluminium sheets into a pack and rolled it between heavy iron cylinders. He repeated the process with progressively smaller gaps between the cylinders until the desired foil thickness was obtained. Another early manufacturer was Dr. Lauber, Neher & Cie., based in Kreuzlingen, Switzerland. In 1907, they discovered an alternative continuous rolling process and the use of aluminium foil as a protective barrier.

Tin foil had been commercially available since the late 19th century. But it was not very malleable and gave a slight metallic taste to food wrapped in it.

Tin foil had been commercially available since the late 19th century. But it was not very malleable and gave a slight metallic taste to food wrapped in it. Hence, the new material quickly replaced it. In 1911, Switzerland-based confectionery firm Tobler began wrapping its chocolate bars in aluminium foil, including their unique triangular chocolate bar, Toblerone. The use of aluminium foil to wrap chocolate was an almost instant success, because it protected it from moisture and kept the aroma intact. By 1912, aluminium foil was also being used by Maggi, now Nestlé Maggi, to pack soups and stock cubes.

Commercial production of aluminium foil in the US began in 1913. The original market was very small, making leg bands for identifying racing pigeons. But soon there were many other applications like wraps for chocolate, tea, Life Savers mints, candy bars, and chewing gum. In 1921, the first folding carton laminated with aluminium foil was produced. The dairy industry was an early adopter since aluminium foil did not turn black in contact with cheese and was about 20 per cent cheaper than tin foil.

Aluminium foil became a major packaging material during World War II.

Household foil was first marketed in the late 1920s. Aluminium foil became a major packaging material during World War II. After the war, its applications began to multiply, like preformed foil food containers that were first launched in 1948. Today, aluminium foil—in bright colours, printed, embossed, or laminated — is everywhere.

 

Photos from the Internet


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1 Comment
  1. Rupa Rao 3 weeks ago
    Reply

    Prof Ashoka- An item so in use in households and to learn of how it landed in my kitchen shelf is interesting to me. Lately Im caught up in the down sides of it too…maybe, perhaps… thats the next part to the write up, as a follow up?

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