The lithium industry has great potential as lithium is a key mineral in batteries and electronics, especially with the growing popularity of electric vehicles
Blog Post by Penny White, Jan 16, 2023
The lithium industry has great potential as lithium is a key mineral in batteries and electronics, especially with the growing popularity of electric vehicles. It is the 31st most abundant element on Earth, and while most mines are currently located in Chile and Argentina, new discoveries and extraction methods are becoming increasingly important to meet the growing demand.
However, mining lithium also raises concerns among investors and environmentalists, who want to ensure that mining will not negatively impact communities and the environment. Traditional lithium extraction methods include evaporation and chemical recovery from salt-flat brines and extracting from lithium-bearing ores like spodumene via crushing, roasting and acid leaching. However, new methods such as direct extraction from geothermal and oil well brines are being investigated to increase global production.
Greenbiz highlights new methods, such as direct extraction with minimal water usage or using naturally occurring underground steam, that can make the mining process more sustainable. Other methods, such as using ion-exchange beads to extract lithium from brines, are also being researched to increase global production.
Lilac Solutions claims it has developed and patented a new method of extracting lithium from brines using ion exchange technology, without the need for evaporation ponds. According to the company, this technology is not only environmentally friendly but also accelerates project development, improves recovery, and yields a high-purity product. While ion exchange has been utilized in different applications such as water treatment and metal processing, it has never been applied to lithium extraction until now. Lilac’s new ion exchange beads and modules are said to make this technology accessible to the lithium industry.
German company LANXESS has developed a new method for extracting lithium using ion exchange resins. This method can treat low-concentration lithium salt solutions containing various metals at concentrations ranging from 100mg to several grams per liter. LANXESS claims that using ion exchange has many advantages over traditional methods, such as increased efficiency, low leakage, and high flow rates due to exchange kinetics. The company’s monodisperse resins can be used to remove divalent ions, such as calcium, magnesium, strontium, and barium, from brine with a typical lithium content of 10g/l. The resin has a total capacity of more than 4.3 eq/l, resulting in a long product lifespan and longer intervals between regeneration phases than standard resins. According to LANXESS, in a concentrated solution of lithium chloride and sodium chloride containing 10ppm of calcium, only trace amounts of calcium in the ppb range remain after treatment.
The lithium industry has great potential and new discoveries and methods of extraction are crucial to meet the growing demand. Efforts are being made to make the mining process more sustainable and environmentally friendly. The future of lithium mining is exciting, and we expect to see further developments in this field.
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