What Materials are Mobile Phones Made Of?

What Materials are Mobile Phones Made Of? - Lovefone, London

They “sleep” next to us on our bedside tables, they spend hours each day clutched in  our palms, they're within reach almost constantly, but all of us take our smartphones for granted. Today smartphones are so ubiquitous that it's almost impossible to imagine life without them, but their sheer normalcy is exactly what stops us from thinking more deeply about where these omnipresent devices come from and what they're made of.

Do you know which phone materials you're keeping so close to your person? This list will break down some of the most common ingredients found in our phones...

 1. Indium Tin Oxide (ITO)

  • Value: approx £700 per kilogram

  • Value compared to gold: 2.3%

  • Function: ITO is the substance which makes touchscreens possible. Made into an electricity-conducting film screen, ITO allows us to interact with our screens via our fingers and gestures.

  • Environmental impact: Can cause health problems, particularly to miners who experience long term exposure. Can result in chronic respiratory issues including pneumoconiosis. Studies with animals indicate toxicity when ingested, plus other health issues. Demand for the material has resulted in the identification of a new occupational problem called indium lung disease. ITO can be recycled but the water used in the process can only be reused for a limited numbers of times. This waste water can pose health a hazard.

2. Lithium Cobalt Oxide

  • Value: approx £40 per kilogram

  • Value compared to gold: 0.1%

  • Function: A key component in Lithium ion batteries, Lithium Cobalt Oxide is the ingredient which (in combination with graphite) gives our phones the juice they need to run.

  • Environmental impact:  Lithium mining has significant social and environmental consequences, jeopardising local communities' access to water, polluting and depleting water sources and releasing harmful chemicals through leaching, spills or air emissions.

3. Silicon

  • Value: approx £2 per kilogram
    Value compared to gold: 0

  • Function: Used to make the all important silicon chip which effectively runs your phone, silicon is a crucial phone material. It's also found in your phone screen.

  • Environmental impact: Carbon Monoxide is a by-product of the mining processes used to derive silicon. Some workers who mine for Silicon are at risk of developing silicosis, a lung disease caused by long-term exposure to silica dust.


4. Copper

  • Value: approx £3.80 per kilogram
    Value compared to gold: 0

  • Function: Used predominantly as wiring within smartphones, copper also comprises a number of micro-electrical components in your device.

  • Environmental impact: Some experts believe we will have mined the majority of the Earth's copper by 2025, others believe reserves are far greater than this, making the environmental risk of copper mining relatively negligible. Although copper is 100% recyclable and less harmful to recycle than to mine, many phones and other gadgets which feature copper are never recycled – a very wasteful practice.

5. Nickel

  • Value: approx £7.20 per kilogram
    Value compared to gold: 0

  • Function: Found in smartphone microphones and electrical components, Nickel is a common ingredient in many modern devices.

  • Environmental impact: Nickel can be released into the air by mining processes, power plants and waste incinerators, which is why recycling smartphone responsibly is very important. Few studies have been made into the environmental effects of nickel, but high concentrations and long term exposure to the element can result in serious health problems including cancers and respiratory issues.

There are many other phone materials which are likely to be present in your mobile. These may include:

  1. Alumina

  2. Silica

  3. Potassium Ions

  4. Graphite

  5. Manganese

  6. Aluminium

  7. Tantalum

  8. Gold

  9. Silver

  10. Tin

  11. Lead

  12. Magnesium

  13. Bromine

We believe in “waste not want not”. Our smartphone repair services are affordable and allow you to use your smartphone for longer, without a hefty repair bill. Otherwise, if you are looking for a new device, take a look at our refurbished smartphones. And together we can reduce waste

    June 14, 2017