February 07, 2022

Alcoa’s technology roadmap aims to reinvent the aluminum industry

Technology Roadmap 3-in-1

At Alcoa, we take pride in the fact that our legacy includes the 1886 invention of the commercial process that made aluminum an affordable and essential material for the modern world.

Now, we have a vision to reinvent the aluminum industry for a sustainable future.

Our technology roadmap supports this vision, creates structural advantages to support future growth and provides a technical path toward our net zero 2050 ambition. The roadmap features three key innovations that have the potential to decarbonize a significant portion of the upstream aluminum supply chain and provide a competitive advantage in a carbon-constrained world.

From post-consumer scrap to commercial-grade aluminum

6a00e553e967d58834026bdefee607200c-800wiAluminum is already infinitely recyclable, and Alcoa is working to recycle even more of it. Alcoa has patented technology called ASTRAEA™ that can purify low-value automotive scrap, removing impurities to make aluminum with higher purity than commercial-grade metal produced at a smelter. This saves energy, reduces emissions and makes available even more aluminum to meet the world’s increasing demand. The technology is currently working at bench scale, and Alcoa intends to develop a pilot demonstration facility in 2023, with engineering and design work taking place in 2022.

 

Boldly designing the Refinery of the Future

6a00e553e967d58834026bdefed9f7200c-800wiAlcoa’s Refinery of the Future project bundles numerous technologies and process improvements to eliminate emissions while also developing beneficial applications for bauxite residue. From an emissions standpoint, the Refinery of the Future includes two primary innovations the company is working to develop – mechanical vapor recompression and electric calcination. Alcoa is also working on ways to reduce and reuse bauxite residue.

 

Zero carbon smelting approaching commercial scale

6a00e553e967d58834026bdefdb51b200c-800wiThrough the ELYSIS™ joint venture, zero carbon smelting is becoming even closer to large-scale application. The joint venture is ramping up a process, first developed at the Alcoa Technical Center, that eliminates all greenhouse gas emissions from the traditional smelting process, emitting instead pure oxygen as a byproduct. The joint venture will soon begin detailed planning for its supply chain, including the production of the proprietary anode-cathode materials that are critical to the ELYSIS technology and carbon-free smelting.