Aluminium is one of the most abundantly used metals. It is widely used in various sectors including transportation, consumer goods to power lines. It is also an important component in various electronic devices such as smartphones, tablets, laptops, and TVs. This is why it is always in high demand. Thus, it is imperative to ensure that the metal is prepared in the usable form by a sustainable method.
Acquiring Aluminium is a carbon-intense process. Mining, smelting, casting and producing new aluminium accounts for 1% of annual global greenhouse gas emissions, according to a study by Columbia University.
In a bid to change that, Elysis, a Montreal-based joint venture between Alcoa Corporation and Rio Tinto Aluminium with support from Apple and Governments of Canada and Quebec, has managed to develop carbon-free aluminium and sold it to Apple.
For more than 130 years, aluminium has been produced in the same manner – first by refining bauxite ore to get aluminium oxide and then smelting the aluminium oxide to release pure aluminium. It’s during this smelting process, which passes an electric current through large blocks of carbon called anodes, that carbon burns, thus creating carbon dioxide. According to Elysis, it has managed to create a carbon-free smelting technology that replaces those carbon anodes with a ceramic anode, which releases oxygen instead of CO2.
Apple has announced that it has purchased this first-ever commercial batch of carbon-free aluminium.
“Bringing this revolutionary technology to market is part of Apple’s commitment to a clean energy future, one where the best products for our customers are also the best for our planet,” Lisa Jackson, vice president of Environment, Policy, and Social Initiatives at Apple said in a statement. This first purchase of carbon-free aluminium marks a “milestone,” the company added. Aluminium is a part of many Apple products like iMacs, iPhones, and Apple Watches.
The company has also mentioned that it will “continue to provide technical support” to the venture and that Elysis will develop this carbon-free aluminium technology for larger-scale production, with a plan to commercialize it more broadly by 2024. It has however not clarified specifically as to whether it plans on acquiring only carbon-free aluminium in the near future.
The move is not only beneficial for the environment but also for the company and the customers as this technology can reduce the cost of production of the devices significantly, which in turn may reduce the price of devices. Besides, the move has been appreciated among the users for its innovation and potential positive impact on the environment.