By Jason Park, V Form
Smartphone Chemistry Bonding : Tin (Sn)
There are a total of 83 elements on the periodic table that are stable, or nonradioactive. Of the 83 elements, nearly 70 of the elements (84%) can be found inside of a smartphone. Amongst these seventy, numerous rare-earths contribute to a smartphone’s function. Each element is carefully researched and requires specific chemical processes. However, parts of the world that produce and supply these raw materials often face shortages and cause environmental damages. Although consumers may find a new iPhone exciting to purchase, the materials that constitute the device should be considered.
Many materials, including metals, rare-earth metals, and polymers, constitute a smartphone. Though each component is crucial for a smartphone to function, tin is one of the most important materials for electronics. Tin is mostly used for soldering materials in phones. Using a soldering iron, solder is used to connect wires by melting it on to electrical circuit boards. In order to ensure electrical conductivity, melted solder is used to cover the tip of an open electrical wire. For these reasons, tin has a relatively low melting point – 231.93 °C – when compared to other metals. Tin is very ductile, and soldering wires are made for this purpose.
Materials are finite, yet technology strives to demand more. Smartphones are one of the greatest technological breakthroughs and will continue to become “smarter.” However, in order to ensure safe, consistent production, the resources that are used to create these devices must not be overlooked. Apart from tin, metals like zinc, antimony, and molybdenum have a very high estimated rate of depletion, according to research done by The Dragonfly Initiative. The practices of handling and disposing materials also need to be more strictly regulated. During the process, many materials contribute to high CO2 emissions, unregulated small-scale mining, and potential acid discharge to the environment. Although materials in a smartphone may be considered as the perfect material, substitutes are an option. Research for building faster and more efficient smartphones is important, but gradually, the world will not be able to fulfill the people’s demands. Striving to build safer and cheaper smartphones by finding potential replacements will ensure lasting technology.