Researchers from the University of Plymouth in England conducted an experiment where they took an Apple iPhone and placed it in a blender. Through the simple method of literally breaking down the smartphone, they identified the different varieties of elements present in the device.
Geologists Arjan Dijkstra and Colin Wilkins went to the lab for a smartphone breakdown. However, unlike most tear-down videos on the internet, their experiment had scientific and environmental objectives. With approximately 1.4 billion mobile phones being manufactured yearly, it is important to note that the production of these devices and the elements used in making them put a huge toll on the environment.
Not Your Average Kitchen Tool
The researchers used a kitchen blender to turn an Apple iPhone 4s to dust. After a few minutes, the smartphone became a mere pile of scraps and metals. The geologists then used sodium peroxide, which is an oxidizer, and mixed the combination at about 900 degrees Fahrenheit.
After the procedure, the two researchers were able to identify the different elements used in producing the device. According to their findings, an iPhone contains 33 grams of iron, 13 grams of silicon, 4 grams of carbon, 7 grams of chromium, and a few other elements that are easily found in nature.
In addition, they found out that the smartphone contains some "critical elements" that are rarer and have risk issues in relation to their supply in the market. Some of these include tungsten, molybdenum, cobalt, neodymium, and praseodymium, among others.
The geologists also found out that the smartphone contains about 36 milligrams of gold and 90 milligrams of silver. The research aims to enlighten mobile phone makers to offer more options for recycling devices once they become nonfunctional.
Putting It Into A Bigger Perspective
Working with animation company Real World Visuals, the researchers cracked down the numbers to show how much of these composition elements are needed every year just to meet the demand of mobile phone makers around the globe. The company used a football field in an animation video to show the amount that is needed for each element.
"Mining can be part of the solution to the world's problems. But we are now in a climate where people are becoming more socially responsible and interested in the contents of what they are purchasing. Partly on the back of this, several of the major mobile phone companies have committed to upping their recycling rates. It is a positive sign that the throwaway society we have lived in for decades is changing, and we hope this project will encourage more people to ask questions about their own behaviours," said Wilkins, who is also a lecturer in Economic Geology.
Here's the research and animation video: