Lithium is a soft, silvery alkali metal that has had an integral part of everyday life. The main component in lithium-ion batteries, the metal’s high electrode potential makes it ideal for energy storage. Due to this and their powerful, lightweight, and very high energy density, lithium-ion batteries have become very popular and can be found in everything from phones to laptops and now electric vehicles. The batteries’ energy storage properties have made it one of the key elements in the transition away from fossil fuels – but where does it come from?
While an accurate estimate of total world lithium reserves is not available, the “Lithium Triangle”, an area between Chile, Argentina and Bolivia, produces up to 75% of the entire world’s “white petroleum”. One of the more sought after compounds extracted through mining is lithium hydroxide, which is a major component for lithium-ion batteries. A component in carbon dioxide scrubbers, lithium hydroxide is a light weight, versatile compound. Lithium hydroxide demand is set to increase along with the global appetite for electric vehicles.
Lithium mining comes in different forms, the two main ones being brine extraction and hard rock mining. Brine pools require lithium to emerge from liquids through evaporation which can be a lengthy process, while hard rock mining involves a highly intensive process of extraction from intrusive rock veins that is relatively fast. Both of these mining methods have some noticeable environmental impacts, however, cleaner extraction methods are available.
EnergyX is working towards a breakthrough in direct-extraction technology that will not only reduce environmental damage, but also help tap into previously non-viable sources. Lithium stands to play an important role in the development of sustainable energy by creating the storage capacity needed to support wide-spread implementation of renewable power. To build a future that won’t harm future generations, the need for innovative technology and low-carbon development is needed, and EnergyX will provide it.