The first commercial process of extracting aluminum was created in 1854 by Henri Sainte-Claire Deville. Deville improved upon the Wohler method by substituting the expensive potassium with the much more affordable sodium by using sodium aluminum chloride instead of just aluminum chloride. This allowed the first commercial quantities of aluminum to be produced in a plant just outside of Paris. Furthermore, the price of aluminum, which was initially more expensive than both gold and platinum, would drop 90% over the next ten years, due to the advent of sodium into the process. Plants using this process would later be built in Great Britain, but after the currently used electrolytic process was developed in 1886, this newer, more commercially viable process would take over and dominate the entire industry.
The slow development of the electrolytic process began back to Sir Humphrey Davy in 1807, who unsuccessfully tried to electrolyze a mixture of alumina and potash. In 1854, two researchers, Robert Wilhelm Vo Bunsen and Sainte-Claire Deville, were able to independently extract the metal aluminum through the electrolysis of fused sodium aluminum chloride. However, due to the lack of a large and inexpensive source of electricity, this new process was still not commercially exploitable. When Gramme invented the dynamo in 1886, this freed the process from its final stipulation, and lead to the invention of modern electrolytic process used today.
Then, in 1886, two unknown scientists, both only 22 years of age, working completely separate and unaware of each other’s work, go on to both invent and patent a new electrolytic process that would become the only method used today. The process that would come to bear both of their names, the Hall-Heroult process, details that is aluminium oxide (alumina) is dissolved in molten cryolite and decomposed electrolytically by passing through it a powerful electric current, then molten aluminum would precipitate out. The Hall-Heroult process has been able to withstand many years and attempts to rewrite or add to it and remains the fundamental basis of all commercial aluminum production today.