For over 130 years, aluminum has been produced in the same dirty, greenhouse gas-releasing way. That could all change soon: Apple is partnering with the Alcoa Corporation and Rio Tinto to commercialize technology that, according to Apple, “eliminates direct greenhouse gas emissions from the traditional smelting process.” Fast Company reported the tech giant is investing $10.1 million in research and development.
Rio Tinto and Alcoa are coming together to form Elysis, a joint venture company, with the goal of packaging the technology for sale in 2024. Not only is Apple betting big on the venture, the governments of Quebec and Canada are investing around $47 million. Elysis will be based in Montreal and will employ 100 people to work towards commercialization of what Alcoa called the world’s first zero-carbon aluminum smelting technology. Apple said they’d be offering technical support.
Alcoa said in Canada, “the technology could eliminate the equivalent of 6.5 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, if fully implemented at existing aluminum smelters in the country. That represents an amount roughly equal to taking nearly 1.8 million light-duty vehicles off the road.”
Apple chose eight materials to zero in on to seek cleaner production methods, and aluminum is one of those. The company said back in 2015, three of their engineers started a search for an improved method of mass-producing aluminum, and they found it at Alcoa. The company’s founder, Charles Hall, pioneered the old method in 1886, but it uses a carbon material that smolders throughout the process, so greenhouse gases are released. But then Alcoa developed a new process that utilizes an advanced conductive material rather than carbon. The smelting process releases oxygen, not carbon dioxide. Rio Tinto brings smelting technology development experience to the joint venture, which will work towards larger scale production.
Alcoa CEO Roy Harvey said in the company’s statement, “This discovery has been long sought in the aluminum industry, and this announcement is the culmination of the work from many dedicated Alcoa employees. Today, our history of innovation continues as we take aluminum’s sustainable advantage to a new level with the potential to improve the carbon footprint of a range of products from cars to consumer electronics.”
Via Fast Company
Images via Apple