Apple helped develop a joint venture between two mining corporations that lead to a breakthrough in clean aluminum smelting.
Alcoa Corporation and Rio Tinto Aluminum are working together on the venture, titled Elysis, in order to develop a carbon-free smelting method technology for larger scale production and commercialization. The goal is to have a package for sale beginning in 2024.
Once fully developed, the new technology has the potential to eliminate direct greenhouse gas emissions from the smelting process.
Apple has helped accelerate the development of the technology. The tech giant partnered with both aluminum companies and the governments of Canada and Quebec to collectively invest $144 million for future research.
All this was announced in Saguenay, Quebec today. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard and Apple senior director Sarah Chandler attended the announcement.
How Apple joined the hunt for clean aluminum
In 2015, Apple decided to join in on the decades of ongoing research. Three of its engineers, Brian Lynch, Jim Yurko and Katie Sassaman met with a number of companies, labs and startups, including American industrial corporation Alcoa to see what the company had to offer.
Aluminum has been produced the same way since 1886 — the way pioneered by Alcoa’s founder, Charles Hall. The process applies a strong electrical current to alumina to remove oxygen from it. Large smelters use a carbon material during the process, which burns, producing greenhouse gases.
Alcoa had designed a new approach, replacing carbon with an advanced conductive material that releases oxygen instead. That’s when Apple brought in Rio Tinto. The Australian-British multinational mining corporation had a robust global network to help expand and distribute the technology.
Apple uses aluminum in many of its products, from iPhone to MacBook. The tech company is determined to be more environmentally friendly. Clean aluminum is a big step towards that.
“Apple is committed to advancing technologies that are good for the planet and help protect it for generations to come,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook.
In another show of support for the planet, Apple announced last month that all its facilities are 100 percent powered by clean energy, and 23 of its suppliers have committed to do the same.