Fire-damaged Duralumin cross brace from the Zeppelin airship Hindenburg (DLZ129) salvaged from its crash site at Lakehurst Naval Air Station, NJ on May 6, 1937
Corrosion of duralumin

Duralumin (also called duraluminum, duraluminium, duralum, dural(l)ium, or dural) is a trade name for one of the earliest types of age-hardenable aluminium–copper alloys. The term is a combination of Dürener and aluminium. Its use as a trade name is obsolete. Today the term mainly refers to aluminium-copper alloys, designated as the 2000 series by the international alloy designation system (IADS), as with 2014 and 2024 alloys used in airframe fabrication.

Duralumin was developed in 1909 in Germany. Duralumin is known for its strength and hardness, making it suitable for various applications, especially in the aviation and aerospace industry. However, it is susceptible to corrosion, which can be mitigated by using alclad-duralum materials.


Duralumin was developed by the German metallurgist Alfred Wilm at Dürener Metallwerke AG. In 1903, Wilm discovered that after quenching, an aluminium alloy containing 4% copper would harden when left at room temperature for several days. Further improvements led to the introduction of duralumin in 1909.[1] The name is mainly used in pop-science to describe all Al-Cu alloys system, or '2000' series, as designated through the international alloy designation system originally created in 1970 by the Aluminum Association.


In addition to aluminium, the main materials in duralumin are copper, manganese and magnesium. For instance, Duraluminium 2024 consists of 91-95% aluminium, 3.8-4.9% copper, 1.2-1.8% magnesium, 0.3-0.9% manganese, <0.5% iron, <0.5% silicon, <0.25% zinc, <0.15% titanium, <0.10% chromium and no more than 0.15% of other elements together.[2] Although the addition of copper improves strength, it also makes these alloys susceptible to corrosion. Corrosion resistance can be greatly enhanced by the metallurgical bonding of a high-purity aluminium surface layer, referred to as alclad-duralum. Alclad materials are commonly used in the aircraft industry to this day.[3][4]


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Aluminium alloyed with copper (Al-Cu alloys), which can be precipitation hardened, are designated by the International Alloy Designation System as the 2000 series. Typical uses for wrought Al-Cu alloys include:[5]


Duralumin sample from the 1931 airship USS Akron (ZRS-4)

German scientific literature openly published information about duralumin, its composition and heat treatment, before the outbreak of World War I in 1914. Despite this, use of the alloy outside Germany did not occur until after fighting ended in 1918. Reports of German use during World War I, even in technical journals such as Flight, could still mis-identify its key alloying component as magnesium rather than copper.[9] Engineers in the UK showed little interest in duralumin until after the war.[10]

The first mass-production aircraft to make extensive use of duralumin, the armored Junkers J.I sesquiplane of World War I

The earliest known attempt to use duralumin for a heavier-than-air aircraft structure occurred in 1916, when Hugo Junkers first introduced its use in the airframe of the Junkers J 3, a single-engined monoplane "technology demonstrator" that marked the first use of the Junkers trademark duralumin corrugated skinning. The Junkers company completed only the covered wings and tubular fuselage framework of the J 3 before abandoning its development. The slightly later, solely IdFlieg-designated Junkers J.I armoured sesquiplane of 1917, known to the factory as the Junkers J 4, had its all-metal wings and horizontal stabilizer made in the same manner as the J 3's wings had been, like the experimental and airworthy all-duralumin Junkers J 7 single-seat fighter design, which led to the Junkers D.I low-wing monoplane fighter, introducing all-duralumin aircraft structural technology to German military aviation in 1918.

Its first use in aerostatic airframes came in rigid airship frames, eventually including all those of the "Great Airship" era of the 1920s and 1930s: the British-built R100, the German passenger Zeppelins LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin, LZ 129 Hindenburg, LZ 130 Graf Zeppelin II, and the U.S. Navy airships USS Los Angeles (ZR-3, ex-LZ 126), USS Akron (ZRS-4) and USS Macon (ZRS-5).[11][12]


Duralumin was used to manufacture bicycle components and framesets from the 1930s to 1990s. Several companies in Saint-Étienne, France stood out for their early, innovative adoption of duralumin: in 1932, Verot et Perrin developed the first light alloy crank arms; in 1934, Haubtmann released a complete crankset; from 1935 on, Duralumin freewheels, derailleurs, pedals, brakes and handlebars were manufactured by several companies.

Complete framesets followed quickly, including those manufactured by: Mercier (and Aviac and other licensees) with their popular Meca Dural family of models, the Pelissier brothers and their race-worthy La Perle models, and Nicolas Barra and his exquisite mid-twentieth century “Barralumin” creations. Other names that come up here also included: Pierre Caminade, with his beautiful Caminargent creations and their exotic octagonal tubing, and also Gnome et Rhône, with its deep heritage as an aircraft engine manufacturer that also diversified into motorcycles, velomotors and bicycles after World War Two.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which was prohibited from producing aircraft during the American occupation of Japan, manufactured the “cross” bicycle out of surplus wartime duralumin in 1946. The “cross” was designed by Kiro Honjo, a former aircraft designer responsible for the Mitsubishi G4M.[13]

Duralumin use in bicycle manufacturing faded in the 1970s and 1980s. Vitus (bicycle company) nonetheless released the venerable “979” frameset in 1979, a “Duralinox” model that became an instant classic among cyclists. The Vitus 979 was the first production aluminium frameset whose thin-wall 5083/5086 tubing was slip-fit and then glued together using a dry heat-activated epoxy. The result was an extremely lightweight but very durable frameset. Production of the Vitus 979 continued until 1992.[14]


In 2011, BBS Automotive made the RI-D, the world's first production automobile wheel made of duralumin.[15] The company has since made other wheels of duralumin also, such as the RZ-D.[16]


  1. ^ J. Dwight. Aluminium Design and Construction. Routledge, 1999.
  2. ^ "United Aluminum - ALLOY 2024". Retrieved 8 October 2018.
  3. ^ J. Snodgrass and J. Moran. Corrosion Resistance of Aluminium Alloys. In Corrosion: Fundamentals, Testing and Protection, volume 13a of ASM Handbook. ASM, 2003.
  4. ^ Parker, Dana T. Building Victory: Aircraft Manufacturing in the Los Angeles Area in World War II, p. 39, 87, 118, Cypress, CA, 2013. ISBN 978-0-9897906-0-4.
  5. ^ ASM Handbook. Volume 2, In Properties and Selection: Nonferrous alloys and special purpose materials. ASM, 2002.
  6. ^ John P. Frick, ed. (2000). Woldman's Engineering Alloys. ASM International. p. 150. ISBN 9780871706911.
  7. ^ "Italian Aircraft: Macchi C.200". Flight: 563. 27 June 1940.
  8. ^ Sackey, Joe (2008). The Lamborghini Miura Bible. Veloce Publishing. p. 54. ISBN 9781845841966.
  9. ^ "Zeppelin or Schütte-Lanz?". Flight: 758. 7 September 1916.
  10. ^ Thurston, A.P. (22 May 1919). "Metal Construction of Aircraft". Flight: 680–684. Archived from the original on 2011-06-01.
  11. ^ Burton, Walter E. (October 1929). "The Zeppelin Grows Up". Popular Science Monthly: 26.
  12. ^ ""The Great Airships" Century of Flight". Archived from the original on 2018-04-26. Retrieved 2012-09-06.
  13. ^ Isurugi, Tatsuhito (September 3, 2013). ""Kaze tachinu" toujou jinbutsu to tori ningen kontesuto. Honjou Kirou no sengo" [A Character form “The Wind Also Rises” and the Japan Birdman Rally: Kiro Honjo’s Postwar]. (in Japanese). Yahoo! Japan. Retrieved November 2, 2020.
  14. ^ Anschutz, Eric (October 31, 2020). "Duralumin History & Use in Bicycle Building". Ebykr. Anschutz Media. Retrieved November 1, 2020. Duralumin was used to manufacture bicycle components and framesets from the 1930s to 1990s.
  15. ^ "RI-D | BBS OFFICIAL WEBSITE ENGLISH" (in Japanese). Retrieved 2023-04-03.
  16. ^ "RZ-D | BBS OFFICIAL WEBSITE ENGLISH" (in Japanese). Retrieved 2023-04-03.