Apple made a new announcement on May 10, 2018, detailing its role in a critical breakthrough in a new carbon-free aluminum smelting method. The company claims that this new process could change global manufacturing of aluminum-based products. This is significant for Apple because it produces a number of devices ranging from the iPhone, MacBook and iMac that use aluminum and can now be sustainably manufactured with the help of this new process.
According to the announcement, Apple outlined that it helped bring Alcoa and Rio Tinto, two of world s largest aluminum producers together to work on the new process. Both these company have formed a joint venture Elysis to work together at further developing the patented technology. Rio Tinto and Alcoa are aiming at scaling this technology for carbon-free smelting process to handle larger-scale production and commercialization . They plan to start licensing the technology from 2024.
The post also added that if the process is fully developed and implemented, it could be one of the most significant innovations in the aluminum industry in over 100 years since the traditional aluminum smelting process that was developed back in 1886 by Charles Hall, Alcoa s founder. Apple went into detail pointing out that smelting process involves applying strong current to alumina to remove oxygen. However, the original experiments and all the smelters across the world use carbon material during smelting which burns the oxygen released and instead produces greenhouse gases. The new process replaces the carbon material in favor of an advanced conductive material .
Alcoa pointed out that it had been producing aluminum in its facility near Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania using the process to varying degrees since 2009. It also pointed out that research and development to create this new process has spanned decades. Apple added that its quest to find an improved method to produce aluminum started back in 2015 when the company sent out three engineers to meet aluminum companies, independent labs, and startups that were working on the problem.
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According to a report by MacRumors, the new process can eliminate about 6.5 million metric tonnes of greenhouse emissions if the new technology is fully implemented in all the smelter across the country. This would amount to taking about 1.8 million light-weight vehicles from the road. Apple has pledged that it will invest $13 million Canadian dollars (CAD) and technical support to the joint venture. Elysis will be based out of Montreal, Quebec where both governments of Canada and Quebec will invest $60 million CAD each. Alcoa and Rio Tinto will also invest $55 million in Elysis as cash over the coming three years.
Apple CEO Tim Cook added, Apple is committed to advancing technologies that are good for the planet and help protect it for generations to come.