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Apple Teams with Mining Giants to Make Greener Aluminium

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The iPhone giant has launched a joint venture with Rio Tinto and Alcoa to develop a new way of making aluminium that eliminates greenhouse gas emissions.

Apple is joining forces with the mining industry to develop a new environmentally-friendly way of making the aluminium used in its iPhones.

The new process cuts out the greenhouse gas emissions normally produced during the smelting process. The iPhone maker says the new technology will revolutionise aluminium production and could represent the biggest game-changer in the industry for 130 years.

Apple engineers stumbled across new process

Apple engineers Brian Lynch, Jim Yurko and Katie Sassaman came across the new process at mining giant Alcoa in 2015 while meeting producers to trying to find a greener way to make the metal. Industrial quantities of aluminium are used in Apple’s Macbooks, iPads and iPhones.

Alcoa’s founder, Charles Hall, pioneered mass production of the metal in 1886 by applying a strong electrical current to alumina to remove oxygen. Currently major smelters use a carbon material that burns and produces greenhouse gases during the process.

However, Alcoa found a way to replace the carbon with an advanced conductive material that releases oxygen instead of carbon dioxide. It wanted to work with a partner to develop the new process.

The iPhone giant has launched the new joint venture, Elysis, with Rio Tinto Aluminium and Alcoa in Canada, investing $10m. As such, the three companies, along with the Canadian Government and Quebec, are investing a total of $144m in the project, which will also help deliver new Canadian jobs.

New tech could be a global ‘game-changer’

The technology is currently patent-pending but already in use at the Alcoa Technical Centre in Pittsburgh. It is expected to become commercially available from 2024 and, claims Apple, could eventually revolutionise the way aluminium is produced worldwide.

“Apple is committed to advancing technologies that are good for the planet and help protect it for generations to come,” said the firm’s CEO Tim Cook.

“We are proud to be part of this ambitious new project, and look forward to one day being able to use aluminium produced without direct greenhouse gas emissions in the manufacturing of our products.”

Note: The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of Alvexo on the matter.