What Elements Are Used in Laptops?

By David Sarokin

There are more than 100 chemical elements in the periodic table. A surprising number go into the manufacture of modern electronic equipment such as your laptop computer. While only a few elements make up the bulk of a laptop's weight, numerous elements from around the world are used in small quantities to provide some of the specialized capabilities of a computer.

Plastics

Plastics make up a good deal of the weight of your laptop. Plastic materials are used externally in the laptop's body and internally in circuit boards, wiring insulation, fans and other components. Plastics have long chemical names like polystyrene or polyvinylchloride, but are mostly composed of two key elements, carbon and hydrogen. Some laptop plastics contain additional elements, such as nitrogen, chlorine or sulfur.

Metals

Many laptop bodies are made of the element aluminium, used for its light weight, strength and appearance. Steel is also a common material for structural support components and hardware like screws; steel is mostly iron, but also contains the elements carbon and nickel. Copper is a substantial component of laptops used in wiring on circuit boards and to connect electrical components.

Battery

One of the largest components in a laptop is the power source, which is typically a lithium-ion battery. The key element is lithium and other elements are used in the battery for the electrolytes and components. The most common lithium-ion batteries contain cobalt, oxygen and carbon.

Trace Materials

Other elements are commonly found in laptops in small quantities. Silicon is used to manufacture microchips. The optical components in laptop screens can include indium, gallium and arsenic. Solder is made up of multiple metals, such as tin and bismuth. Internal motors contain tiny magnets comprised of neodymium. A few electronic components have minute quantities of precious metals such as gold or platinum.