Apple's Tim Cook
Apple's Tim Cook

Apple, Rio Tinto in carbon free aluminium plan

APPLE is joining forces with Rio Tinto and Alcoa Corporation to produce aluminium in a way that eliminates direct greenhouse gas emissions.

The tech giant says the 'revolutionary advancement' in the smelting process fundamentally changes the way the common component has been produced for more than 130 years.

Apple has partnered with both aluminium companies, and the governments of Canada and Quebec, to collectively invest a combined US$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 said in a statement today.

"We are proud to be part of this ambitious new project, and look forward to one day being able to use aluminium produced without direct greenhouse gas emissions in the manufacturing of our products."

The 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 aluminium.


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

  The new aluminium production method releases oxygen, rather than greenhouse gasses, during the smelting process.

Aluminium 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.

The first aluminium produced through a carbon-free smelting process.
The first aluminium produced through a carbon-free smelting process.



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 realise 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 has a robust worldwide presence as well as deep experience in smelting technology development and international sales and commercialisation.

In Queensland, Rio Tinto Coal Australia operates the Hail Creek and Kestrel mines located in the Bowen Basin region. Together the mines supply more than 10 million tonnes of coking and thermal coal for export annually.

Together, the two aluminium companies formed a joint venture called Elysis, which will work to develop this technology further for larger scale production and commercialisation, with a package planned for sale beginning in 2024.

The patent-pending technology is already in use at the Alcoa Technical Center, outside Pittsburgh, and this project will invest more than US$30 million in the United States.

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.

News Corp Australia

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