Aluminium (or aluminum; see different endings) is a chemical element in the boron group with symbol Al and atomic number 13. It is a silvery-white, soft, nonmagnetic, ductile metal. Aluminium is the third most abundant element (after oxygen and silicon), and the most abundant metal, in the Earth’s crust. It makes up about 8% by mass of the crust, though it is less common in the mantle below. Aluminium metal is so chemically reactive that native specimens are rare and limited to extreme reducing environments. Instead, it is found combined in over 270 different minerals. The chief ore of aluminium is bauxite.
Aluminium is remarkable for the metal’s low density and for its ability to resist corrosion due to the phenomenon of passivation. Structural components made from aluminium and its alloys are vital to the aerospace industry and are important in other areas of transportation and structural materials, such as building facades and window frames.[clarification needed] The most useful compounds of aluminium, at least on a weight basis, are the oxides and sulfates.
Despite its prevalence in the environment, no known form of life uses aluminium salts metabolically. In keeping with its pervasiveness, aluminium is well tolerated by plants and animals. Owing to their prevalence, the potential beneficial (or otherwise) biological roles of aluminium compounds are of continuing interest.