It’s only been recently that Apple released its new iPhone 6, and like every year zealots are lining up in front of Apple stores. In fact, the company reports that some 4 million iPhone 6 preorders were placed within the first 24 hours, yet again showing how powerful a cult brand can be. Aside from being a nifty gadget, the iPhone, and other high-end smartphones for that matter, is an extremely complex piece of technology. The fact that most people use a device with computing power equivalent to the all the computers used to put man on the moon during the late ’60s to view pics of funny cats on the internet is another thing. Seriously, though, you’d be surprised how much energy is invested in building the iPhone and in the latest installment of the American Chemical Society’s Reactions series – an online show that explores chemicals from every day – you’ll find out more about one piece of the Apple technology chain: chemical elements.

Gold, silver and a slew of other precious metals and rare earth minerals are employed in the iPhone’s manufacturing, especially the touchscreen and battery. It’s estimated some 1.7 billion smartphones are currently in use all over the world, which is set to become quite a problem in only a couple of years when people will decide to throw away their phones. At this scale, tones and tones of precious metals are being wasted, but even more worrisome is that extremely toxic elements might leach into the ground if smartphones aren’t disposed of correctly – this is the case in most places in the world.

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