Aluminum is already one of the most preferred manufacturing materials in the world thanks to its many beneficial properties and near-zero-waste recycling. Of course, as with any material, there’s still much to learn to help get the most out of the manufacturing process. Good thing that scientists over at two Oregon universities have discovered a way to make aluminum even more desirable. From Science Daily:

Researchers at Oregon State University and the University of Oregon today announced a scientific advance that has eluded researchers for more than 100 years — a platform to study and fully understand the aqueous chemistry of aluminum, one of the world’s most important metals.

The findings, reported in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, should open the door to significant advances in electronics and many other fields, ranging from manufacturing to construction, agriculture and drinking water treatment.

Aluminum, in solution with water, affects the biosphere, hydrosphere, geosphere and anthrosphere, the scientists said in their report. It may be second only to iron in its importance to human civilization. But for a century or more, and despite the multitude of products based on it, there has been no effective way to explore the enormous variety and complexity of compounds that aluminum forms in water.

Now there is.

That’s a pretty bold statement — but for the uninitiated (i.e. anyone without an advanced degree in chemistry or material science) it’s a little convoluted. So what does this exactly mean?

In layman’s terms, this new technique opens the door to nano-level precision with aluminum manufacturing.

Besides developing the new platform, this study also discovered one behavior for aluminum in water that had not been previously observed. This is a “flat cluster” of one form of aluminum oxide that’s relevant to large scale productions of thin films and nanoparticles, and may find applications in transistors, solar energy cells, corrosion protection, catalytic converters and other uses.

Ultimately, researchers say they expect new technologies, “green” products, lowered equipment costs, and aluminum applications that work better, cost less and have high performance.

The easier way to look at it is this: scientists have discovered the door that opens up all new possibilities with aluminum manufacturing. As with any breakthrough, we’re only on the cusp, and the possibilities will probably surprise us in the near future.