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What is the ELYSIS™ technology and how does it work?

The ELYSIS technology is the greatest breakthrough in the aluminium industry since its beginnings in 1886. It has the potential to drastically reduce the environmental footprint of the global aluminium industry. 

The ELYSIS technology effectively puts an end to the use of carbon anode in the aluminium smelting process. It features the newly developed breakthrough proprietary materials that are stable and do not react during the process. Thus, it eliminates all direct greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the aluminium smelting process and is the first technology ever that emits oxygen as its by-product

What are the benefits of this technology?

The benefits of the ELYSIS™ technology are numerous:

  • It completely eliminates GHG emissions and seven other by-products (perfluorocarbons (PFCs), carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide (SO₂), carbonyl sulfide, nitrogen oxides, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and benzo(a)pyrene) of the aluminium production process.
  • It provides a unique solution for a drastic reduction of carbon footprint of many products of our daily life used in transportation, construction, electrical and consumer goods industries. Aircrafts, building structures, construction supplies, cars and smartphones… are just a few examples.
  • The use of ELYSIS technology in Canada only has the potential to reduce GHG emissions by approximately 7 million metric tons, which is an equivalent of removing 1.8 million cars from the road.
  • The technology features newly developed breakthrough proprietary electrode materials increasing the process efficiency and enabling higher productivity.  While a traditional carbon anode is typically replaced every 25 days, the ELYSIS anodes are expected to last several years without a need for replacement.
  • The ELYSIS technology’s unique vertical anode/cathode geometry results in a higher productivity for the same surface area.
Why would this innovation revolutionize the aluminium industry?

Aluminium has always been the leading choice for sustainable product development due to its lightweight, strength and infinite recyclability. ELYSIS™ technology takes the miracle metal’s sustainable advantage to a new level.

For the first time in history, two competing multinational industry giants – Rio Tinto and Alcoa – have joined forces and combined their strength to advance this significant R&D discovery and work together to scale it up and commercialize it.

The ELYSIS technology is intended both for retrofitting existing smelters and for building new installations. It will be commercialized globally.

Who is behind ELYSIS?

An unprecedented world-class partnership of two major aluminium industry pioneers - Alcoa and Rio Tinto - led to the formation of ELYSIS, announced in 2018.

The Canadian Government and the Quebec Government, through participation of Investissement Quebec, have decided to support and be part of this industry revolution, each investing $80 million (CAD) in ELYSIS.

The world’s technology giant Apple has helped facilitate the collaboration between Alcoa and Rio Tinto on the carbon-free smelting process and, in addition to investing $13 million (CAD), has agreed to provide ELYSIS with technical support.

Vincent Christ, a charismatic seasoned leader who has distinguished himself during his more than 35 years’ career in the aluminium industry, was appointed as the CEO of ELYSIS. Capitalizing on his strategic vision and supported by the academic background and vast experience in engineering, he has successfully led for a number of years the Technology and R&D sectors of Rio Tinto. His nomination, while being a logical choice of partner companies, has been an expression of ultimate trust.

ELYSIS’ team is formed by experienced, competent, talented and devoted professionals who are relentlessly working on a common objective of refining the technology, aiming to complete its development and bring it to commercial size by 2024.

Why were Montreal and Saguenay chosen to establish ELYSIS’s headquarters and research centre?

Canada is the 4th largest producer of aluminium in the world, with an annual production of over 3.2 million tons. Canada is also where Alcoa and RT are most active, operating a total of 10 smelters, all using 100% renewable energy sources. Over the years, the country has developed an expertise in aluminium manufacturing that is recognized globally, especially in the province of Quebec and the Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean region.

In line with this tradition, the governments of Canada and Quebec have both decided to support our project—ensuring that this breakthrough technology and the birth of a revolutionary new aluminium smelting industry take place here in Quebec.

What are the next steps for ELYSIS?

All new technologies need to be scaled up. ELYSIS continues to scale up its carbon-free inert anode smelting technology

The ELYSIS™ technology was successfully demonstrated and has been producing metal at the Alcoa Technical Center, near Pittsburgh in the United States, since 2009.

ELYSIS demonstrated production of commercial purity aluminium, without any greenhouse gas emission and at industrial scale at the Industrial Development Centre in Saguenay (Canada).

Work is underway to build 450 kA cells at Alma (Canada), at the end of an existing potline.

Design and engineering for a facility producing proprietary materials fundamental to its inert anode, zero-carbon smelting process underway in 2022.

With the current development pathway, ELYSIS aims to have its technology available for installation from 2024.