Scientists wreck a smartphone in a blender, but not just for fun

It’s oddly mesmerizing to watch a smartphone get torn apart inside a blender, but not so much that it makes you want to head to the kitchen to wreck your own handset.

Scientists at the University of Plymouth in southwest England recently threw an old iPhone into a blender so you don’t have to. But they didn’t do it for fun. Instead, they wanted to analyze the materials that constitute a smartphone, partly in a bid to encourage people to recycle their devices once they’re done with them, and to consider more carefully the use of so-called “conflict minerals” in their gadgets.

As the video at the top shows, the team smashed the iPhone into fragments and dust before mixing it at 500 degrees Celsius (about 930 degrees Fahrenheit) with a powerful oxidizer to allow the researchers to perform a detailed analysis of the phone’s ingredients.

As you’d expect, they discovered it contained an array of mined materials that included iron, silicon, and chromium. Researchers also found 900 mg of tungsten, 70 mg of cobalt, 90 mg of silver, and 36 mg of gold.

A report on the University of Plymouth’s website said the results show that to create just one phone “you would need to mine 10-15 kg of ore, including 7 kg of high-grade gold ore, 1 kg of typical copper ore, 750 g of typical tungsten ore, and 200 g of typical nickel ore.”

Commenting on the research, project co-leader Dr. Arjan Dijkstra said: “We rely increasingly on our mobile phones, but how many of us actually think what is behind the screen? When you look the answer is often tungsten and cobalt from conflict zones in Africa.”

Dijkstra continued: “There are also rare elements such as neodymium, praseodymium, gadolinium, and dysprosium, not to mention quantities of gold, silver, and other high-value elements. All of these need to be mined by extracting high-value ores, which is putting a significant strain on the planet.”

Dr. Colin Wilkins, a lecturer in economic geology who also led the project, noted how people “are becoming more socially responsible and interested in the contents of what they are purchasing. Partly on the back of this, several of the major mobile phone companies have committed to upping their recycling rates. It is a positive sign that the throwaway society we have lived in for decades is changing, and we hope this project will encourage more people to ask questions about their own behaviors.”

But it’s not just tech companies that are working to improve their green credentials. Other initiatives aimed at encouraging people to recycle their old gadgets include one launched by the 2020 Tokyo Olympics committee, which is planning to make the winners’ medals using recycled electronics waste that includes everything from handsets and digital cameras to laptops and games consoles.

Digital Trends offers up some smart ideas for what you can do with an old Android or iOS device once its best days are behind it, with recycling being one of many options.

Smart Home

Grocery shopping wreaks greater havoc on the environment than meal kits

A study by the University of Michigan showed meal kits cause less environmental damage than meals from grocery store ingredients. According to the U-M researchers, grocery store meals produced more greenhouse gas emissions than meal kits.
Outdoors

The best sustainable outdoor gear for Earth Day and beyond

Take some time to clean up trash on a highly-used hiking trail for Earth Day, but don't stop there. Take the next step by choosing only sustainable gear for your outdoor adventures.
Movies & TV

'Prime'-time TV: Here are the best shows on Amazon Prime right now

There's more to Amazon Prime than free two-day shipping, including access to a number of phenomenal shows at no extra cost. To make the sifting easier, here are our favorite shows currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
Cars

The VR goggles you wear to shoot alien ships is helping Magna design car parts

Canadian automotive supplier Magna has started using virtual reality in its research and development department. The technology helps engineers get a better view of what they're working on, whether it's an interior part or a powertrain.
Mobile

Bigger isn’t always better: 5 of the smallest smartphones worth buying

Phones are getting larger and larger, but what options exist for the small-of-hand, or people who just want a phone they can use one-handed? In a world of phablets, some of the smallest smartphones can still pack a punch.
Mobile

Waze vs. Google Maps: Which map app should you be using?

Waze and Google Maps are two of the most popular apps for those looking for turn-by-turn navigation, yet there are some notable differences to point out. Here, we examine both to decide which offers the best feature set.
Wearables

Before buying a Fitbit, check out these Garmin fitness trackers under $100

The Apple Watch is a great fitness tracker, but it's not cheap. Thankfully, there are plenty of fitness trackers under $100, and they offer many of the same features. Here are the best fitness trackers under $100.
Health & Fitness

Google’s redesigned Fit activity tracker is now an iOS app

Google Fit has landed for iOS. The activity tracker offers the same clean design that arrived with the major revamp of the Android version a year ago, with features such as Move Minutes and Heart Points also included.
Mobile

Stunning photo shows Honor 20 will get the full Moschino designer treatment

Honor will launch the Honor 20 on May 21, at an event taking place in London. A special Moschino version will also be revealed, potentially with a Lite version, and perhaps even another model also showing up on the day.
Mobile

Leak says Huawei will supply 5G equipment to the U.K., but with a caveat

A leak from the U.K.'s National Security Council says Huawei has been approved to supply certain 5G infrastructure equipment, but not the core components related to secure aspects of the network.
Mobile

Smash your carrier shackles with the best unlocked phones

If you want the freedom to switch carriers at will or you prefer to get your phone directly from the company that makes it, you'll want to buy an unlocked smartphone. These are the best unlocked phones you can buy in the U.S.
Mobile

Google Assistant for Android and iOS wants to tell you a story

Just in time for National Tell a Story Day on April 27, Google has added the ability for Google Assistant for iOS and Android to read you a story. So now there's no excuse for not catching up with a good book.
Android

Here's how much it will cost to buy the Galaxy S10 5G, and when it releases

Samsung announced a whopping four new Galaxy S10 devices, from the low-cost S10e to the triple-camera S10 and S10 Plus. But it's the Galaxy S10 5G that steals the show, as it will be the first 5G-ready smartphone to hit the market.
Mobile

Verizon reveals 20 new cities that will get its 5G network in 2019

Verizon is in the midst of a massive 5G rollout. In addition to fixed 5G service, it has also begun deploying mobile 5G. Here's everything you need to know about Verizon's 5G network, including when it will be in your town.