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Scientists pulverize phones to discover what's inside

Milkshake and break.

University of Plymouth/YouTube

Generally when someone says smoothie, I think banana. But two scientists at the University of Plymouth in the UK think a little differently. 

They think "iPhone".

To encourage greater recycling rates to better appreciate exactly what materials go in to producing the handheld supercomputers we slip into our pockets every day, two geologists at the University of Plymouth have stuck an iPhone into a blender, pulverized it to dust and then chemically analyzed its composition.

Smartphones have become so ubiquitous it's kind of hard to imagine a world without them. We take them for granted. They're just there. But of course, it takes a whole lot of energy to build one -- and plenty of mining.

By blending up the iPhone (without the battery!) and mixing it with an oxidizer at around 500 degrees Celsius (approx. 932 degrees Fahrenheit), the researchers were able to find exactly what the iPhone was composed of. They noted a wide range of elements, including the usual suspects of iron, nickel and silicon, but surprisingly they also found around 90 milligrams of silver, 900mg of tungsten and 36mg of gold.

"This means that concentration-wise, a phone has 100 times more gold - or 10 times more tungsten - than a mineral resource geologists would call 'high-grade'," wrote Alan Williams, the media and communications officer at the University of Plymouth.

The team also produced a video of their exploits, where you can see the iPhone getting destroyed by spinning blades. Hooray!

"We are now in a climate where people are becoming more socially responsible and interested in the contents of what they are purchasing," said Colin Wilkins, one of the project's two geologists, in a press release. "Partly on the back of this, several of the major mobile phone companies have committed to upping their recycling rates."

The two major smartphone manufacturers have certainly begun making their production and recycling processes more eco-friendly. In September 2018, Apple committed to using more recyclables in their iPhones, in addition to moving to renewable energy sources to power their manufacturing. In January, Samsung committed to replacing its plastic packaging with sustainable materials and in its US, Chinese and European facilities it has pledged it will switch to 100 percent renewable energy by 2020

Of course, this is not the first time the iPhone has met death by blender. The popular YouTube channel "Will It Blend?" first threw an iPhone into a blender some 12 years ago, racking up an impressive 12 million views. That video, below, grinds the original iPhone down to a fine dust. Notably, the researchers used the same blender to pulverize their own test smartphone, except this time the analysis was a little more refined.

If watching a perfectly usable smartphone being smashed to pieces isn't your thing, maybe you'll enjoy seeing Jar Jar Binks gets obliterated instead. And if all of this has you wondering about sorting yourself out with a shiny new blender, well CNET has you covered there, too. You can check out our best blender recommendations for 2019.

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