Aluminium foil: Characteristics and properties
Aluminium foil is a versatile and effective material, involved in many applications – in particular for packaging and technical products. See Facts if you are interested in facts about alufoil or Markets to see where it is used.
Aluminium foil in food and drink packaging applications saves more resources than are needed in its production. Various Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) show that alufoil packaging and household foil contribute less than 10% of the environmental impact in a product‘s lifecycle – Sustainable production and consumption.
Alufoil’s total barrier to light, gases and moisture is the principal reason for its use in flexible laminates for food, drink and technical applications. Even when very thin it provides perfect protection and preservation of aroma and product characteristics. It can help to extend the viable life of sensitive products for many months, even years, fully retaining original aromas. By enabling products to be preserved for long periods without the need for refrigeration, alufoil packaging helps to prevent spoilage and can provide large energy savings.
Light yet strong, alufoil has unique deadfold characteristics which make it ideal for wrapping and re-wrapping many different products and product shapes, while minimising the need for sealants. Because it is very malleable it can be easily deformed without losing its barrier integrity, making it an ideal material for use in combination with other flexible substrates to create very thin laminates for a variety of markets and consequently, again, save resources.
When pressed into a shaped dish, the aluminium foil memorises its shape, particularly where the folds and rims occur. Shape, thickness, alloy and temper can be selected to create exactly the performance characteristics required.
Economies in both transport and storage result from lightness, flat or reeled format of empty packs and, in the case of alufoil containers, their nesting shapes which are particularly suited to filling machine magazines. Alufoil helps save resources during packaging, product and waste transportation. By enabling products to be preserved for long periods without the need for refrigeration, alufoil packaging provides large energy savings. Their shape can make them very ‘space efficient’ in storage and display, enabling further energy and cost savings. Alufoil is weight saving, versatile and minimises the amount of packaging material needed.
In light honeycomb structures aluminium foil introduces the necessary stiffness and stability enabling architects to lighten building structures and foundations; and engineers to save weight in all types of transport – ships, planes, trucks and cars.
Aluminium is fully recyclable, endlessly, without any loss of quality. The recycling process for aluminium requires 95% less energy compared to its primary production, which corresponds to enormous emission savings. Modern separation techniques allow aluminium foil in household waste to be extracted and recycled at a fraction of its original energy cost.
If aluminium foil is not collected for recycling but processed in incinerators the thin, laminated foil material is oxidised and releases energy, which can be recovered. In addition, the remaining non-oxidised aluminium can be extracted from the bottom ashes of the incinerator and subsequently used for recycling purposes.
Alufoil is very conductive to heat. It stands up to all temperature variations encountered in the processing and use of packaging – from well below blast-freezing to the extremes of baking and grilling- without distorting, melting or the risk of sudden cracking. Alufoil also dissipates heat quickly – ideal for autoclaving and heat-sealing processes. It can help minimise sealing times and evens out the temperature gradient within both containers and flexible packaging, helping to protect product quality and energy economy. Its heat conductivity can help minimise processing, chilling and reheating times.
Vital to the efficient operation of a vehicle’s power plant and to the comfort of driver and passengers, alufoil-finned heat exchangers provide both cooling and heating as required. Thanks to its light weight alufoil has become the automatic choice.
Food in alufoil dishes can be cooked, re-heated or heated by convection, microwave or fan oven or in ‘bain-marie’ systems. Alufoil packaging helps to save time and resources during preparation.
Once produced, alufoil is completely sterile due to the high temperature annealing process. It is safe for use in contact with foodstuffs and it does not harbour or promote the growth of bacteria.
Alufoil is safe for use in contact with foodstuffs. Uncoated aluminium foil will not react with the vast majority of foods. In many applications alufoil is not in contact with the product as it is used in association with other materials within a laminate. In addition it is an ideal protection against product tampering and can support anti-counterfeiting features.
Alufoil’s bright or matt metallic finish plus its compatibility with all printing technologies provides designers with enormous scope to create packs with stunning graphic design, shelf presence and brand identity.
Aluminium foil reflects up to 98% of light and infrared heat. The bright surface also has low heat emissivity. This helps to save energy in insulation. Its insulation role extends into fire protection. In ‘fire walls’ for vehicles and ships, for fire-resistant doors and building panels, aluminium foil dissipates heat and stops access to the oxygen required to support flames.
Alufoil shields against magnetic and radio frequency emissions. Used in fibre-optic cables, alufoil acts as a ‘tracer’ to enable testing of the integrity of cable links. In cable wrap, electrical conductivity enables the integrity of the cable circuit to be verified.
Alufoil specific weight
6.35 µm foil weighs 17.2 g/m2
64.94% IACS (IACS: International Annealed Copper Standard)
235 W/m K
Foil is defined as measuring less than 0.2mm (<200 µm)