Chemistry » Essential Ideas in Chemistry » Phases and Classification of Matter

Chemistry of Cell Phones

The aim of this lesson is to give you an appreciation and a feel for elements and compounds as well as how we apply chemistry in real-world applications. You do not necessarily need to understand the underlying processes.

Chemistry and Cell Phones

Imagine how different your life would be without cell phones (see image below) and other smart devices. Cell phones are made from numerous chemical substances, which are extracted, refined, purified, and assembled using an extensive and in-depth understanding of chemical principles.


Almost one-third of naturally occurring elements are used to make a cell phone. Image credit: modification of work by John Taylor

About 30% of the elements that are found in nature are found within a typical smart phone. The case/body/frame consists of a combination of sturdy, durable polymers comprised primarily of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen [acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) and polycarbonate thermoplastics], and light, strong, structural metals, such as aluminum, magnesium, and iron.

The display screen is made from a specially toughened glass (silica glass strengthened by the addition of aluminum, sodium, and potassium) and coated with a material to make it conductive (such as indium tin oxide).

The circuit board uses a semiconductor material (usually silicon); commonly used metals like copper, tin, silver, and gold; and more unfamiliar elements such as yttrium, praseodymium, and gadolinium. The battery relies upon lithium ions and a variety of other materials, including iron, cobalt, copper, polyethylene oxide, and polyacrylonitrile.

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