Apple’s annual profits could pay for fusion


At Scienceogram, we’re used to looking at massive numbers in the context of government spending. However, this week the most talked-about figure has come from the world of commerce: Apple’s record-breaking profits.

what you could buy with apple profits

The firm announced that the popularity of the iPhone 6 had contributed to quarterly profits of $18bn, or around £12bn, the largest ever recorded for a public company. If this performance continues, Apple could afford to develop nuclear fusion by the middle of next year. And then do it again in 2017, and again the year after that.

Nuclear fusion is the energy source which powers the Sun and, with further research, could provide an essentially infinite source of carbon-free electricity. Scientists think it would cost around $80bn (£60bn) to go from the experimental reactors we have now to commercially viable power stations. This compares to Apple’s profits in the financial year to September 2014 of just under $70bn (£50bn).

There are, of course, many other worthy scientific projects in energy research and elsewhere that could benefit from this level of investment. Also, there are many other highly profitable public companies: what this comparison really illustrates is that science, compared to many of the figures floating around in the private sector, can be surprisingly cheap.

For a more in-depth analysis of big figures in research and elsewhere, check out our big science page.


Costing nuclear fusion is inevitably imprecise, but current estimates based on the current European ‘roadmap to fusion’ suggest it will cost somewhere in the region of $80bn. There’s more information about this on the fusion section of our energy page. Of course, it may cost more than this; or it may cost much less, if some smaller-scale, more esoteric fusion concepts turn out to work.

Apple provides both quarterly updates and annual reports on their financial performance, which have been used to source the information for this article.