Apple paves the way for breakthrough carbon-free aluminum smelting method

Aluminum is a key material in many of Apple’s most popular products, and for more than 130 years, it’s been produced the same way. But that’s about to change.

Aluminum giants Alcoa Corporation and Rio Tinto Aluminum today announced a joint venture to commercialize patented technology that eliminates direct greenhouse gas emissions from the traditional smelting process, a key step in aluminum production. This is a revolutionary advancement in the manufacturing of one of the world’s most widely used metals.

As part of Apple’s commitment to reducing the environmental impact of its products through innovation, the company helped accelerate the development of this technology. And Apple has partnered with both aluminum companies, and the Governments of Canada and Quebec, to collectively invest a combined $144 million to future research and development.

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

Today’s announcement in Saguenay, Quebec, which was attended by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard and Apple Senior Director Sarah Chandler, involved research and development that has spanned decades. Apple’s involvement started in 2015, when three of its engineers went in search of a cleaner, better way of mass producing aluminum.

After meeting with the biggest aluminum companies, independent labs and startups around the world, Apple engineers Brian Lynch, Jim Yurko and Katie Sassaman found their answer at Alcoa Corporation.

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.

Lynch, Yurko and Sassaman learned that Alcoa had designed a completely new process that replaces that carbon with an advanced conductive material, and instead of carbon dioxide, it releases oxygen. The potential environmental impact was huge, and to help realize it quickly, Alcoa needed a partner.

That’s when David Tom, Maziar Brumand and Sean Camacho in Apple business development brought Rio Tinto to the table. Rio Tinto had a robust worldwide presence as well as deep experience in smelting technology development and international sales and commercialization.

Together, the two aluminum companies formed a joint venture called Elysis, which will work to develop this technology further for larger scale production and commercialization, with a package planned for sale beginning in 2024. Apple will continue to provide technical support as well. The patent-pending technology is already in use at the Alcoa Technical Center, outside Pittsburgh, and this project will invest more than $30 million in the United States.

If fully developed and implemented, this new method has the potential to eliminate direct greenhouse gas emissions from the smelting process around the world, strengthening the closely integrated Canada-United States aluminum and manufacturing industries.

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. Additionally, as part of the company’s goal to eventually make all of its products from recycled or renewable materials, it debuted Daisy, a robot that can more efficiently disassemble iPhones to recover valuable parts for future high tech recycling.

Source: Apple Inc.

MacDailyNews Take: Congrats to all involved in this project/partnership!

25 Comments

      1. Some municipalities in CA put fluoride into drinking water if it does not contain it naturally. It’s efficacious on tooth enamel but is a mild poison when in the stomach.

        “Fluoride is a highly toxic substance. … In terms of acute toxicity (i.e., the dose that can cause immediate toxic consequences), fluoride is more toxic than lead, but slightly less toxic than arsenic. This is why fluoride has long been used in rodenticides and pesticides to kill pests like rats and insects.”

        and

        “If you accidentally swallow more than used for brushing, seek professional help or contact a poison control center immediately.” The FDA requires this warning because children who swallow too much fluoride toothpaste can suffer acute poisoning, even death.”

        See the kind of bullshit big gub’mnt perpetrates?

        1. Fluoride is highly toxic ……at certain levels, when acidified.
          So yes, the stomach is quite acidic, and if you eat a spoonfuls of fluoride salts you will get sick and perhaps even die.

          A spoonful of pure sodium fluoride salt. 5-10 grams.

          Sodium Fluoride is about 45% Fluoride, so 5-10 g contain 2.25 to 4.5 g of fluoride.

          Fluoride levels added into water ~1 part per million.

          Amount of fluoridated water you need to drink, at once, to consume 2.25 g Fluoride = 2250 liters = 594 gallons!

          In the stomach it becomes hydrofluoric acid (parts per million) a gas, which you will burp out.

          In the intestine (alkaline) it will be soluble fluoride which you will piss out.

          I think you’ll be okay….

    1. … back in the day fluoridation was considered a Commie plot to destroy America. I guess we can still blame this on the Russians since they seem to be the scapegoat boogie man for everything we fear these days.

      1. Yes, and Dem. Hillary with the help of the FBI, CIA, and Comey is relaunching the Cold War by making Russia into a Commie threat which it clearly is not. That’s big money talking. The only saving grace if they all buy Apple products. lol

        1. If you don’t think Russia’s meddling in our elections (and in elections across Europe) isn’t a problem, how would you feel if Iran, Pakistan or Saudi Arabia ran sophisticated disinformation campaigns against western democracies? Still think it’s okay?

          1. (We should try to tie in Apple in our comments.)

            Please! All Apple selling nation issue disinformation against and spy on each other, so nothing new in what you say. This is long-standing tradition and, in fact, normal behaviour. Even so, this is no reason for Hillary to escalate this into a reignited cold war with Russia. Right?

          2. John,

            I hope you are aware that Secretary Clinton hasn’t held a public office for over five years. She lost her last election and has spent most of her time since taking hikes in the woods near Chappaqua, New York. She is hardly in a position to escalate anything into a war with anybody.

            I am quite sure you are aware that the Russian interference with our last presidential election was different in both quantity and quality than we have ever seen in this country before. It was not “normal behavior,” any more than dressing up Special Ops troops in green uniforms without insignia to invade and annex the territory of an adjacent country is “normal behavior.”

            It is not normal and it should not be acceptable to anyone other than a internet troll living in St. Petersburg who is paid to stir up dissension in American society by dragging irrelevant political comments into a thread on an Apple-connected scientific breakthrough.

            1. … blame all the “dissension” in America on the Russians. Anything they possibly did on social media was only of influence on the low mentality Facebook imbeciles. I’m still waiting for real proof that Trump was in bed with the Russians, which is just another bait and switch gimmick by the Dems.

    2. Seriously?
      Your tin foil is showing, man.

      Yes, at large doses, fluoride is toxic. So is aspirin, if you consume enough. (For that matter, so it water.) There is no evidence — none, nada, zilch — that fluoride in drinking water is a health hazard. Fluoride is found naturally in lots of water systems, and 100 years of scientific testing has proven its effectiveness in reducing cavities.

      The only side effect seems to be tooth yellowing in kids who get too much fluoride, but even these kids get fewer cavities.

      Let me guess: you avoid vaccines, too, right?

      1. Even though you are an Apple loyalist like I am, you should not disregard: “The FDA requires this warning because children who swallow too much fluoride toothpaste can suffer acute poisoning, even death”. Fluoride has been shown to be efficacious on tooth enamel but neither inside your kidney nor inside women’s breast tissue where it has not been proven safe.

        1. The ONLY purpose of that warning is because many toothpaste providers make their toothpaste have a taste enticing to people — and in some cases especially to small children.

          IF (HUGE IF) a small child (2-4 years) gets its hands on a full, large toothpaste tube and eats the whole thing thinking it taste great, then having ingested all that toothpaste could be hazardous to that child’s health. It is a poisoning hazard when very small children eat an extreme amount, NOT when a small child ingests a single mouthful. And, the “even death”? That’s because they have to list the extreme consequences. It’s no different than TV ads for certain medicines that list all the known side effect and include “even death” in the list.

          Wake up. In virtually 100% of real world cases there’s no practical concern about toothpaste poisoning or killing someone. To say otherwise just points out that either A) you’re just being a troll trying to make a stupid point that has no basis in reality, or B) you’re an idiot.

    3. Hey John, nice of you to bring up the Fluoride situation, always a good topic of debate.

      I am a bit surprised by the comment “medicate people forcefully” and from what I gather you are commenting on the fluoridation of tap water. There are alternatives however for drinking water without fluoridation, notably certain companies of bottled water do provide fluoride free water, water tanks that catch rain water and wells to mention some of them.

      Personally I think the benefits outweigh the disadvantages but people do have choices to fluoridated water.

      1. While you I presume and I have access to untainted water, many do not. Besides, we already pay for community water so why should we pay a second time?

        1. Because if we don’t put fluoride in the water, we will pay far more in the long run, both for personal dental bills and for tax-supported indigent health care. Same thing if iodine weren’t added to most table salt and chlorine to most public pools. Likewise for requiring schoolchildren to receive a wide range of immunizations.

          All of which is STILL completely unrelated to Apple’s initiative in eliminating carbon emissions from aluminum production.

        2. Yes I do presume that you, as most people that visit here regularly have access to untainted water but I do realize that there are many that don’t, but that goes for any resource. Food, clothing, shelter considered basic essentials can be tainted and in short supply, even the air we breathe. Water is scarce in many parts of the world and some have been ingenious in finding ways to collect it. It’s an ongoing challenge to be sure.

          I don’t think that is the situation for a good portion of those that have access to fluoridated water, i.e. a community water system. Now your point about paying for it twice leaves me a bit confused. Certainly there is a payment (taxes) to bring drinking (fluoridated) water to people’s home but from my experience in many such communities you pay for the water you use, so if you don’t drink it, you don’t get charged for it but you are charged for the other uses of water, like flushing toilets, washing hands (I haven’t read about any health hazards of washing your hands in fluoridated water) so it is still an important service/product that is being provided.

          Again, for the running water infrastructure, most will pay for it in developed nations and will pay for the usage of the water they use, so if they don’t drink it they won’t get charged for it. I don’t see your point of paying for it twice, I still see it as an alternative. You can pay for it at the tap or you can pay for it when you buy a bottle, or a distiller or any other device that provides the drinking water one desires, at least for a first world nation.

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