A new lithium extraction technology could vastly reduce the environmental impact of lithium extraction and vastly increase output
Spotted: Lithium is a vital component in the high-energy batteries that power electric vehicles (EVs). But lithium is in increasingly short supply — threatening the conversion to EVs. According to estimations, by 2025 lithium demand is likely to marginally outstrip supply, with this gap widening dramatically by 2030.
Most of the world’s lithium reserves are found in brines – natural salt-water deposits. The conventional process for extracting lithium from brines requires evaporation in large ponds. This process is environmentally damaging, slow, and vulnerable to weather. However, startup Lilac Solutions has developed a new technology to extract lithium from brines without the need for evaporation ponds.
Lilac’s process uses specially developed, nano-coated ion exchange beads to absorb the lithium from the brine. Once saturated with lithium, hydrochloric acid is used to flush the lithium from the beads, yielding lithium chloride. This is then processed on-site using conventional equipment to create the finished product.
According to Lilac, this process offers a seamless scale-up and an 80 per cent recovery rate for lithium, as opposed to 40 per cent using conventional evaporation techniques. Lilac’s solution is seen as a potential game-changer.
Optimising mineral extraction is not limited to lithium ponds. Springwise has also spotted innovations in the archive that include the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to discover minerals important for green energy and environmentally friendly processes for mineral extraction.
Written By: Lisa Magloff