Technology company Apple has bought the first-ever commercial batch of carbon-free aluminium from a joint venture (JV) between two aluminum suppliers.
The metal is being made by Elysis, the Montreal-based JV of Alcoa and Rio Tinto. The JV was established last year, with $144-million in funding provided by the two companies, Apple, as well as the governments of Canada and Quebec.
The first batch of the aluminium will be shipped from an Alcoa research facility, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in the US, in December, for use in Apple products.
Apple has not specified which of its products will include the carbon-free aluminium.
The first batch of the aluminium was made in Pittsburgh, but Elysis also plans to manufacture it at a C$50-million research facility being built in Saguenay, Quebec, which is expected to come on line in the second half of 2020.
Aluminium is usually carbon-intensive to produce, with the smelting process involving passing electrical current through a large block of anode, which burns off during the process and releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
The carbon-free aluminium process was developed in response to consumer, activist and investor demand that miners and manufacturers show they are working to lessen their impact on the environment, a statement explained.
According to Apple environment, policy and social initiatives VP Lisa Jackson, Apple uses aluminium housings for many of its electronics, including iPhones, Apple watches and Mac computers.
“Bringing this revolutionary technology to market is part of Apple’s commitment to a clean energy future, one where the best products for our customers are also the best for the planet,” she commented, adding that Apple “is thrilled” to be partnering with Rio Tinto, Alcoa and Elysis.
Rio Tinto aluminium CE Alf Barrios said this marked another step towards zero-carbon aluminium and a more sustainable future.
Elysis president and CEO Vincent Christ, meanwhile, said the sale was an important milestone for the company and was “a sign of [the company’s] progress over its first year of operation”.
The Alcoa JV wants to commercialise its technology, which uses a ceramic anode to make aluminum and that emits only oxygen, eliminating direct greenhouse-gas emissions from the smelting process, by 2024.