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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.

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

(View all)

23 weeks 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.
Rating: 16 Votes
23 weeks 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
Rating: 14 Votes
23 weeks ago

another gimmick

What an awful take.
Rating: 14 Votes
23 weeks ago
I don't know why, but I love the word smelting.
Rating: 13 Votes
23 weeks 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.
Rating: 12 Votes
23 weeks ago
I've been waiting to weigh in on carbon-free aluminum smelting.

I'm kidding. I don't know a thing about smelting.
Rating: 9 Votes
23 weeks ago

another gimmick


Life on the coastlines, what a gimmick eh?
Rating: 9 Votes
23 weeks ago

could be more sustainably manufactured in as early as six years.

I'm glad aluminium cases are not going away soon!
Rating: 6 Votes
23 weeks ago

We should be more concerned about this....

"The first thing you should know is that the fluoride they put in our drinking water is not a pharmaceutical grade additive.
It is an industrial waste byproduct.
As aluminum production increased in the first half of the twentieth century, it became necessary to find somewhere to put the fluoride. Manufacturers could no longer dump it into rivers or landfills, because it was poisoning crops and making livestock sick. Francis Frary, chief scientist for ALCOA, had an idea. He commissioned Gerald Cox at the Mellon Institute, to conduct research regarding the benefits of adding fluoride to the water supply.

The Mellon Institute was frequently hired by big business to produce research that supported their industries, and for several decades they produced research showing that asbestos was safe and did not cause cancer. Hmmm.

They also produced reports assuring everyone that fluoride was not toxic and would be beneficial to add to our drinking water for healthy teeth."

Article: https://www.chrisbeatcancer.com/fluoride-is-poison/


nonsense..... and why are you on a computer anyways? aren't you afraid of the electric fields?

Rating: 6 Votes
23 weeks ago

Great but even if you completely converted all primary Aluminum production to this process, that would only reduce the current annual human production of CO2 by about 0.25% !
(24 million tons CO2)
Total world human production of CO2 annually is about 10 billion tons.

Fossil Fuel & Cement accounts for 90% or so of the total.
The variation in this number from year to year is greater than the total from aluminum production.

From another source, has the cement manufacturing CO2 production at 5% of the total. I've seen various proposals about making cement carbon neutral, that would have a much bigger impact.

Of course, even a slight drop in CO2 production from fossil fuel would also have a bigger impact.

So this news story is mainly feel good and little else.


If every company would go to such lengths to decrease their CO2 production, that would have a great impact. Apple is leading the change, they don’t pretend to resolve the whole problem.
Rating: 6 Votes

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