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Apple says it's found a ‘revolutionary’ way to make its devices more environmentally friendly

  • Apple said the new process of smelting aluminum replaces the use of carbon with an advanced conductive material.
  • Oxygen is released as a result instead of carbon dioxide, meaning the metal can be produced in an environmentally clean way.
  • Aluminum is used in most of Apple's popular products, including the iPhone, iPad and iMac.
An attendee checks out a new iPhone X during an Apple launch event in Cupertino, California, September 12, 2017.
Stephen Lam | Reuters
An attendee checks out a new iPhone X during an Apple launch event in Cupertino, California, September 12, 2017.

Apple has teamed up with aluminum producers Alcoa and Rio Tinto on a joint venture aimed at smelting aluminum without emitting greenhouse gases.

The tech company said Thursday that "revolutionary" new technology created by the project replaces the use of carbon, which is normally used in the smelting process, with an advanced conductive material.

Through this method, oxygen is released as a result instead of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, meaning the metal can be produced in an environmentally clean way.

"Apple is committed to advancing technologies that are good for the planet and help protect it for generations to come," Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook said in a statement.

"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."

Aluminum is used in most of Apple's popular products, including the iPhone, iPad and iMac.

Apple, Alcoa, Rio Tinto and the governments of Canada and Quebec will collectively invest a total of $144 million to fund further research and development into the technology.

The current method of smelting aluminum was discovered by Alcoa founder Charles Hall in 1886. Hall's method entailed applying a strong electrical current to aluminum oxide, or alumina, the raw material required for producing aluminum. But this method involves burning carbon, and therefore producing carbon dioxide.

Apple said three of its engineers, Brian Lynch, Jim Yurko and Katie Sassaman, learned the new process had been discovered at Alcoa. Apple, Alcao and Rio Tinto hope to launch the patent-pending technology for commercial release by 2024.

Apple has been ramping up its efforts towards sustainability recently. Last month, the firm claimed that its global facilities were now powered entirely by renewable energy. It also has a recycling robot called Daisy that disassembles iPhones to recover valuable materials.