Apple purchases first aluminum with zero carbon emissions

Published on December 11, 2019

Known for its innovative products, Apple is benefitting from a likewise company. A duo of aluminum companies just created aluminum that doesn’t emit CO2 during the part of the process that usually emits the most.

Apple Inc. purchased aluminum produced with less carbon emissions.

The aluminum is being created and sold by Elysis, a company formed just for this purpose. Their work is a joint venture between Alcoa and Rio Tinto, with funding from Apple, the Canadian government and Quebec’s government.

Elysis is working to make this technology ready for the commercial market by 2024. They are hopeful that this will be the solution to aluminum and emissions.

“If the ELYSIS™ technology is adopted only in Canada, it has the potential to reduce the annual GHG emissions by approximately 7 million metric tons, which is an equivalent of removing 1.8 million cars from the road,” said their website.

Apple is not disclosing the amount of aluminum or cost of the purchase.

Apple is also not saying what products will be and if they will be different in any way.

The difference

Traditionally, aluminum turns from bauxite ore to a finished product through two processes, refining and smelting.

Smelting is the second largest component that contributes to CO2 emissions coming in only behind the energy used to power the entire process, according to a factsheet by Columbia University.

It accounts for 16.8 percent of the total emissions in aluminum production, according to Columbia.

This may not sound significant, but the next largest emission is from refining and that stands at 10.8 percent.

Traditional smelting uses carbon to separate the different materials.

“Smelting is through the Hall-Héroult electrolysis process, which involves running large inputs of electricity through dissolved alumina via a carbon anode,” researchers said in the factsheet.

Elysis’ process will release oxygen during its smelting process instead CO2.

It does this by using a ceramic anode instead of using the traditional carbon anode.

In the way, Elysis is able to reduce the amount of CO2 released like never before.

Behind the scenes

Elysis was started in 2018 when two large aluminum companies, Alcoa and Rio Tinto, started working together to create this solution.

Their funding is from three main entities: Apple, the Canadian government and the Quebec government.

Apple invested 13 million CAD or just under 10 million USD in the project and they were the lowest investor.

Both governments invested 60 million CAD which is over 45 million USD.

Elysis is currently only in Pittsburg but they are opening a new “research and development” center in Saguenay, Quebec in late 2020.

Green developments

This is not the first time that Apple has made efforts this year to reduce their environmental impact.

They announced earlier that they were working with more suppliers that used 100 percent renewable energy.

Their personal facilities also use 100 percent renewable energy.

Good timing

Elysis’ work is just in time. CO2 emissions went up in 2017 for the first time in several years, according to an article by environmental correspondent for BBC Matt McGrath.

From 2014 to 2016 emissions remained constant. However, emissions rose in 2017 by 1.2 percent.

Going in the wrong direction, the UN estimates that the current emissions would have to be cut in half by 2030 to reach their previous goals.

Elysis’ reduction is 16.8 percent more marketable and more in accordance with UN goals, especially if governments or companies like Apple insist on a reduction of pollution.

Sarah Smith is a Staff Writer at Grit Daily. Based in Tampa, Florida, she primarily covers new tech and events.

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