Apple Paves Way Towards Carbon-Free Aluminum Smelting Process as Latest Environmental Pledge

The aluminum used in Apple products ranging from iPhones to MacBooks could be more sustainably manufactured in as early as six years.

aluminum alcoa rio

The first aluminum manufactured with the new process

Apple today announced it has helped facilitate a collaboration between two of the world's largest aluminum producers, Alcoa and Rio Tinto, on a new carbon-free aluminum smelting process. Together, the companies have formed a joint venture called Elysis, which will work to develop the patented technology further.

Alcoa and Rio Tinto aim to achieve larger-scale production and commercialization of the process, with plans to license the technologies beginning in 2024. If fully developed and implemented, it will eliminate direct greenhouse gas emissions from the traditional aluminum smelting process developed over 130 years ago.

Instead of carbon dioxide, the new process releases oxygen, per Apple's press release:

Aluminum has been mass produced the same way since 1886, when it was pioneered by Alcoa's founder, Charles Hall. The process involves applying a strong electrical current to alumina, which removes oxygen. Both Hall's original experiments and today’s largest smelters use a carbon material that burns during the process, producing greenhouse gases. […]

Alcoa has designed a completely new process that replaces that carbon with an advanced conductive material, and instead of carbon dioxide, it releases oxygen.

Alcoa said it has been producing aluminum at its facility near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with the new process, to varying degrees, since 2009. The process resulted from decades of research and is described as the most significant innovation in the aluminum industry in more than a century.

In Canada, for example, Alcoa and Rio Tinto said the new process could eliminate the equivalent of 6.5 million metric tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, if fully implemented at existing smelters in the country. That is supposedly roughly equal to taking nearly 1.8 million light-duty vehicles off the road.

Apple said its involvement started in 2015, when three of its engineers went in search of a better way of mass producing aluminum. Apple ultimately helped bring Alcoa and Rio Tinto together, and has now pledged an investment of $13 million CAD to the joint venture, along with continued technical support.

Apple CEO Tim Cook:

Apple is committed to advancing technologies that are good for the planet and help protect it for generations to come. We are proud to be part of this ambitious new project, and look forward to one day being able to use aluminum produced without direct greenhouse gas emissions in the manufacturing of our products.

Elysis will be headquartered in Montréal, Québec, with the Governments of Canada and Québec each investing $60 million CAD. Alcoa and Rio Tinto will invest $55 million CAD cash over the next three years.

Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, and Premier of Québec, Philippe Couillard, were on hand for today's announcement.

Trudeau's statement:

Today's announcement will create and maintain thousands of jobs for Canadians, significantly reduce Canada's carbon footprint, and further strengthen the aluminum industry in North America. It is a truly historic day for the aluminum industry – and for all Canadian aluminum workers – who play such an important role in our economy and our country's future.

Today's news follows Apple's announcement last month that all of its facilities are now powered with 100 percent clean energy and 23 of its suppliers have committed to do the same. Apple also introduced Daisy, a robot that can more efficiently disassemble iPhones to recover valuable parts for recycling.

This initiative is a testament to Apple's commitment to reducing the environmental impact of its products through continued innovation.

Top Rated Comments

apb87 Avatar
54 months ago
Super exciting news. They could also, you know, stop gluing components together, requiring users to buy new devices every two years since they aren't upgradable.
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Mr_Brightside_@ Avatar
54 months ago
another gimmick
What an awful take.
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
AngerDanger Avatar
54 months ago
Yeah, sure, but there are other ways in which Apple isn't environmentally conscientious, so who cares? When it comes to sustainable business practices, it has to be all or nothing!

/s
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
twistedpixel8 Avatar
54 months ago
I don't know why, but I love the word smelting.
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Arty6 Avatar
54 months ago
Super exciting news. They could also, you know, stop gluing components together, requiring users to buy new devices every two years since they aren't upgradable.
There are probably like 4 nerds that would want to buy an upgradeable phone and it's a far stretch to say that users are required to buy new devices every two years.
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
rcread Avatar
54 months ago
I've been waiting to weigh in on carbon-free aluminum smelting.

I'm kidding. I don't know a thing about smelting.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

widgets ios 16 feature

Gurman: iPhone 14 Pro to Feature Always-On Display Showing iOS 16's New Lock Screen Widgets

Sunday June 26, 2022 7:36 am PDT by
iPhone 14 Pro models are widely expected to feature always-on displays that allow users to view glanceable information without having to tap to wake the screen. In the latest edition of his Power On newsletter for Bloomberg, Mark Gurman said the feature will include support for iOS 16's new Lock screen widgets for weather, fitness, and more. "Like the Apple Watch, the iPhone 14 Pro will be...
maxresdefault

M2 13-Inch MacBook Pro With 256GB SSD Appears Slower Than Equivalent M1 in Real-World Speed Tests

Monday June 27, 2022 1:57 pm PDT by
Benchmark testing has indicated that the 256GB variant of the 13-inch MacBook Pro with M2 chip offers slower SSD performance than its M1 equivalent, and now real-world stress testing by YouTuber Max Yuryev of Max Tech suggests that the 256GB SSD in the 13-inch MacBook Pro is also underperforming in day-to day-usage. The M2 MacBook Pro with 256GB SSD and 8GB RAM was slower than the M1 MacBook ...
13 inch macbook pro m2 mock feature 2

Base 13-Inch MacBook Pro With M2 Chip Has Significantly Slower SSD Speeds

Sunday June 26, 2022 2:52 pm PDT by
Following the launch of Apple's new 13-inch MacBook Pro with the M2 chip, it has been discovered that the $1,299 base model with 256GB of storage has significantly slower SSD read/write speeds compared to the equivalent previous-generation model. YouTube channels such as Max Tech and Created Tech tested the 256GB model with Blackmagic's Disk Speed Test app and found that the SSD's read and...
m2 mac mini screen feature

Gurman: Apple Planning M2 Pro Mac Mini, New Apple TV With A14 Chip, Revamped HomePod With S8 Chip, and More

Sunday June 26, 2022 6:31 am PDT by
In the latest edition of his Power On newsletter for Bloomberg, Mark Gurman outlined additional M2 Macs on Apple's product roadmap, including new Mac mini models with M2 and M2 Pro chips, new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models with M2 Pro and M2 Max chips, and a new Mac Pro tower with M2 Ultra and "M2 Extreme" chips. Following the M2 series of Macs, Gurman said the first M3 series of...
M2 Pro and Max Feature

Apple's Upcoming M2 Pro Chip for High-End MacBook Pro and Mac Mini Will Reportedly Be 3nm

Monday June 27, 2022 7:31 am PDT by
TSMC will manufacture Apple's upcoming "M2 Pro" and "M3" chips based on its 3nm process, according to Taiwanese industry publication DigiTimes. "Apple reportedly has booked TSMC capacity for its upcoming 3nm M3 and M2 Pro processors," said DigiTimes, in a report focused on competition between chipmakers like TSMC and Samsung to secure 3nm chip orders. As expected, the report said TSMC will...
iPhone 11 Pro vs iPhone 14 Pro

iPhone 11 Pro vs. 14 Pro: New Features to Expect if You've Waited to Upgrade

Monday June 27, 2022 11:22 am PDT by
With many customers choosing to upgrade their iPhone every two or three years nowadays, there are lots of iPhone 11 Pro users who might be interested in upgrading to the iPhone 14 Pro later this year. Those people are in for a treat, as three years of iPhone generations equals a long list of new features and changes to look forward to. Below, we've put together a list of new features and...
tesla carplay hack

Tesla Apple CarPlay Hack Updated to Work With Any Tesla Model

Monday June 27, 2022 3:38 am PDT by
Polish developer Michał Gapiński has released a new and improved version of his "Tesla Android Project" which brings Apple's CarPlay experience to more Tesla vehicles than ever before. According to Gapiński, version 2022.25.1 provides "100% functional CarPlay integration for any Tesla," and comes with several new features and bug fixes. The project now supports DRM video playback so that...
2022 back to school apple

Apple Launches 2022 Back to School Offer: Up to $150 Gift Card With Mac or iPad

Friday June 24, 2022 5:08 am PDT by
Apple today launched its annual "Back to School" promotion for college/university students in the United States and Canada. This year's promotion offers a free Apple gift card with the purchase of an eligible Mac or iPad, rather than free AirPods like last year. Apple is also offering students 20% off AppleCare+ plans during the promotion. Apple is offering a $150 gift card with the purchase ...