equipment used in the extraction of lithium

the role of the calciner in the extraction of lithium from spodumene

the role of the calciner in the extraction of lithium from spodumene

In the complex production required to transform spodumene concentrate into lithium compounds such as lithium carbonate or lithium hydroxide, calcination plays a key role in not one, but two parts of the process, making it an essential technique in efforts to exploit this increasingly important lithium ore.

While the beneficiation of lithium from brines has long been the primary focus of commercial efforts, spodumene a pegmatite ore is becoming more desirable as a result of its high lithium content and the exploding demand for lithium-ion batteries.

Calcination is a thermal processing technique used throughout a variety of industries to instigate a chemical reaction or physical change in a material. Most commonly, it refers to the chemical dissociation of components within a material, such as the separation of calcium carbonate to produce calcium oxide and carbon dioxide.

Spodumene ore naturally occurs in the crystal structure of monoclinic alpha form (-form). In order to extract lithium from the ore via the leaching process, however, the ores crystal structure must be in the tetragonal beta form (-form). This conversion is achieved through decrepitation, or the shattering of the crystal structure.

In processing spodumene concentrate, calcination causes decrepitation at temperatures between 1075 1100 C. Temperature control during calcination is crucial to the success of the process; if temperatures are allowed to approach anywhere near 1400 C, undesirable formations between the alpha spodumene and other silicates can occur (referred to as eutectics).

Since the -spodumene ore is not sensitive to products of combustion, a direct-fired rotary kiln is used to process the material in this setting. A direct-fired kiln utilizes direct contact between the material and process gas to thermally process the ore. The kiln is set at a slight angle in order to allow gravity to assist in moving material through the rotating drum.

Once the material has been decrepitated, or converted to beta-phase spodumene (-form), an additional calcination step is required. The concentrate, now in -form, is first mixed with sulfuric acid (a step referred to as sulfuric acid digestion) and fed to a separate rotary kiln. This acid roasting step utilizes a kiln that operates at much lower temperatures typically around 250 C.

The goal of the acid roasting step is to allow the lithium to be extracted from the mixture as water-soluble lithium sulfate, which is amenable to leaching. Through leaching, the lithium sulfate can then be converted into market-ready compounds lithium carbonate or lithium hydroxide.

Unlike the kiln used for decrepitation, this kiln is of the indirect configuration, often referred to as a calciner. The indirect configuration is used because beta-phase spodumene cannot be exposed to the products of combustion.

Indirect-fired kilns are externally heated in order to keep the material and products of combustion separate. Material, heated through direct contact with the shell, rolls along the drums interior, exposing fresh material as it tumbles to promote even heat distribution throughout the bed, sometimes with the help of bed disturbers.

Process Engineers in the Innovation Center have various kilns at their disposal to conduct testing at batch and continuous pilot scale for both direct-fired applications (decrepitation) and indirect applications (acid roasting).

Calcination is an essential tool in the conversion of spodumene concentrates to lithium compounds, with two key roles in the process. Through calcination, both decrepitation and acid roasting can be achieved in the effort to produce lithium carbonate and lithium hydroxide for use in lithium-ion batteries or other applications.

FEECO is a leader in custom thermal processing equipment. We can provide custom rotary calciners for use in the lithium extraction process, be it for decrepitation or acid roasting. All FEECO equipment is engineered and fabricated to the highest quality with the characteristics of the material in mind to ensure a reliable, long-lasting thermal processing solution. We also offer a unique testing facility to aid in process development. For more information, contact us today!

this breakthrough lithium extraction technology could accelerate the sustainable energy transition

this breakthrough lithium extraction technology could accelerate the sustainable energy transition

A breakthrough nanotechnology from cleantech start-up EnergyXpromises to revolutionise the speed, cost and sustainability of accessing the worlds lithium reserves. The technique uses a newly developed class of materials to act like an organic sieve to separate out lithium, rather than vast networks of evaporation ponds. Lithium is a critical element used in the battery technology that underpins much of the worlds consumer electronics, electric vehicles and energy storage systems.

By 2040 it is estimated that there will be 56 million annual electric vehicle (EV) sales and over 1095 gigawatts of battery energy storage systems in the world, an exponential increase on 2 million annual EV sales and 9 gigawatts in 2018. These rely on the same Lithium-ion battery technology found in phones and laptops, requiring rapid scaling of the raw material supply chain to keep pace.

Lithium is now featured at the top of the United States governments Critical Minerals List, showing its geopolitical importance, cites EnergyX founder and CEO Teague Egan. Lithium is arguably the new oil, the single most important and valuable economic commodity for the 21st century.

Egan believes that while there is no immediate raw material shortage to meet this demand, the rapid uptake in the use of batteries for a wide range of technologies cannot be met by expanding traditional production techniques, a view shared by Mark Saxon, CEO & President at Leading Edge Materials Corp.

Relatively little has been invested in the production of graphite, cobalt, nickel and lithium. With 5 to 10 times demand growth forecast in the next decade, and a new mine taking 10 years to discover and develop the maths is challenging, comments Saxon.

Over two thirds of the worlds lithium reserves are suspended in brines of highly concentrated salt-water. Some of the largest sources are in the salt flats of Bolivia, Chile, China, Argentina and Tibet. Most of it is extracted using vast networks of evaporation ponds in a process that can take up to two years.

The lithium is mixed in with a lot of other similar sized salts, like magnesium, sodium, calcium and potassium, says Egan. That makes it really difficult to separate out the useful lithium you want.

Traditional methods rely on the sun evaporating away the water content and waiting for the salts to precipitate out one by one. As lithium is one of the lightest elements in the periodic table, it is the last to come out of the brine mix, and a lot is lost along the way. Typically, only 30-50% is successfully extracted.

Egan gave the example of a facility owned by lithium extraction company SQM. Their facility in northern Chile covers over 44km2 and requires 2000 employees to operate. At $40/m capex, that is roughly $1.76 billion to set up this evaporation pond system that is only yielding 30,000 metric tons of lithium per year, says Egan.

Whilst the evaporation ponds also produce other useful products besides lithium, increasing production would require a relatively proportional increase in land and labour force. This is not practical when near-term demand for lithium is increasing by a factor of ten.

EnergyX claim their patented LiTAS technology, underpinned by research published in leading academic journals Science and Nature, revolutionises this. The new method accelerates the lithium extraction process from years to days, and rather than a 30-50% extraction rate, the technology captures closer to 90% of the lithium in the mix.

The underlying science is based on a new class of materials called metal-organic frameworks (MOF), which have an extremely large internal surface area and small pore sizes. These act like an organic sieve to separate very accurately different metal ions of similar size.

The fact that we are seeing MOF membranes target and separate these specific metal ions in an aqueous mixture is a pioneering and novel breakthrough, explains TJ Dilenschneider, Chief Science Officer at EnergyX. The salts in saltwater brines are all so similar, that having the ability to target and separate lithium from magnesium and calcium or sodium from lithium at high concentrations is phenomenal.

While Egan did not provide a precise cost using the new technology, he indicated the speed of production is in the magnitude of 100x faster and requires a minimal workforce overhead. Both factors will drastically reduce the price of lithium, which EnergyX say make up a substantial amount of a battery cells cost.

In turn, more competitive battery costs would help accelerate the uptake of electric vehicles and increasing levels of solar and wind energy, which are the cheapest form of electricity generation in a growing number of markets around the world but require energy storage to address their variability.

The set-up costs and environmental impact of LiTAS are also expected to be minimal. Compared to the vast evaporation ponds, our technology can be deployed in fraction of that, in a factory setting, added Egan. With no major land purchase costs, significant areas of natural terrain can be left unspoilt and unlike traditional evaporation techniques used by lithium miners no external freshwater usage is required.

The technology is a culmination of thousands of hours and millions of dollars in research stemming from a tri-institutional collaborative effort between Monash University, CSIRO (the Australian National Laboratory), and The University of Texas at Austin (UT). The work was also backed by a $10.75m U.S. Department of Energy grant.

EnergyX secured the exclusive worldwide rights to the technology for an undisclosed sum and other financial instruments. Several of the key scientists at the institutions are members of EnergyXs Scientific Advisory Board.

Im a Forbes 30 Under 30 honoree, technology futurist and entrepreneur recognized for my work in energy and sustainability. Ive dedicated my career towards building a sustainable energy future and inspiring the next generation of sustainability leaders. As a founding member of Fluence, a global energy storage technology and services company backed by Siemens and AES, Im at the forefront of the transformation of how we power our world. My experience includes instrumental roles in Europes first commercial battery storage array as well as one of the largest battery storage fleet transactions in the world. Prior to this, I completed a doctorate focused on the impacts of renewable intermittency on energy markets and masters in engineering at Durham University. Ive worked and traveled in over 50 countries and across diverse industry, policy and academic sector roles, including the fossil fuel industry and U.K. Parliament.

Im a Forbes 30 Under 30 honoree, technology futurist and entrepreneur recognized for my work in energy and sustainability. Ive dedicated my career towards building a sustainable energy future and inspiring the next generation of sustainability leaders. As a founding member of Fluence, a global energy storage technology and services company backed by Siemens and AES, Im at the forefront of the transformation of how we power our world. My experience includes instrumental roles in Europes first commercial battery storage array as well as one of the largest battery storage fleet transactions in the world. Prior to this, I completed a doctorate focused on the impacts of renewable intermittency on energy markets and masters in engineering at Durham University. Ive worked and traveled in over 50 countries and across diverse industry, policy and academic sector roles, including the fossil fuel industry and U.K. Parliament.

lithium brine extraction technologies & approaches

lithium brine extraction technologies & approaches

Much of the worlds commercial lithium is still recovered today in the way it has been for half a century: by evaporating brines collected from salars and salt lakes in evaporation ponds. Recovering lithium in evaporation ponds can take a year or more and leaves behind lots of salt waste, but there are new technologies and processes that offer exciting options for lithium extraction.

The demand for lithium is outpacing the rate lithium is being mined from brines, due to continuing advancements in mobile devices and electric cars. Lithium is an abundant element, however, there are very few commercial resources where lithium is found in concentrations sufficient for producing useful lithium compounds. The primary sources of lithium are in brines from salars and salt lakes, and lithium-bearing spodumene ores, while geothermal brines represent the second most productive sources of lithium. Lastly, produced waters from oil & gas fields are an untapped source of lithium that may grow in importance in the future. To ensure the productivity of these lithium resources, it is essential to have lithium recovery technology and processes that are optimized to the characteristics of each individual resource, such as the concentration of lithium, the ratio of lithium to magnesium and calcium ions, and relative concentrations of other ions.

Lithium recovery via conventional chemical precipitation normally starts by subjecting lithium-rich brine to a series of solar pond evaporations. This will precipitate other salts such as sodium chloride and potassium chloride, while concentrating the lithium. Lime (calcium hydroxide) is then added to the concentrated lithium brine to further remove magnesium as magnesium hydroxide, and sulfate as calcium sulfate. Any calcium in the concentrated brine is removed as calcium carbonate by adding sodium carbonate. The brine that results from these chemical precipitations is then subjected to a carbonation process, where the lithium reacts with sodium carbonate at 80-90C to produce technical-grade lithium carbonate. This can be further purified to produce battery-grade lithium by re-dissolving the lithium carbonate, and then using an ion exchange process to remove impurities.

To reduce the time required for solar evaporation concentration, lithium will sometimes be precipitated as lithium phosphate, which precipitates more quickly than lithium carbonate due to its roughly 30-fold lower solubility. Lithium phosphate is then converted into battery-grade lithium hydroxide through an electrochemical process.

Lithium selective ion exchange sorbents are a promising alternative for extracting lithium from brines. Inorganic ion exchange sorbents, such as lithium manganese oxides, spinel lithium titanium oxides, and lithium aluminum layered double hydroxide chloride, have been shown to have high lithium-selective uptake capacity. However, the recovery process requires the lithium to be in contact with these sorbents for long periods of time. Additionally, sorbents can be very expensive; they are mostly available as powders that require energy-intensive processes for lithium recovery and can degrade during the acid-driven desorption process.

A novel technique based on an electrolytic cell that contains LiFePO4/FePO4 as an electrode material has been studied to selectively recover lithium. Under an electrochemical process, lithium ions from a lithium-bearing brine are selectively intercalated into a cathode made from FePO4 to form a lithium-saturated LiFePO4. Then, the current is reversed, turning the LiFePO4 into an anode that can be used to recover lithium.

One approach that has been tested to selectively recover lithium from brine involves using an organic phase comprising kerosene and an extractant, such as tributyl phosphate, trioctylphosphine oxide (TOPO), and beta-diketone compounds. Although these organic phases show very high selectivity toward lithium over sodium and magnesium ions under optimized conditions, the lithium stripping phase uses solvent extraction that can result in costly equipment corrosion. In addition, the residual brine that remains after lithium extraction may require post-treatment to remove the leached solvent before it can safely be sent for disposal.

Reverse osmosis (RO) and nanofiltration (NF) processes have been studied for pre-concentrating or separating lithium from a lithium-bearing brine. A typical lithium brine usually contains high concentrations (for example, more than 5.0 wt%) of salt ions. The maximum salt concentration that an RO/NF process can reach is linked to the osmotic pressure, as well as the membranes selectivity and the mechanical stability of any associated equipment. There are automated chemical softening systems that can help membrane treatment systems reliably reach their treatment limits and improve yield, such as our BrineRefine system. Conventional NF processes cannot efficiently separate lithium without heavy pre-treatment of the brine, such as diluting the brine with a large amount of fresh water.

Electrodialysis systems that use monovalent-selective ion exchange membranes, such as FlexEDR Selective, have also been used to recover lithium from lithium brine containing divalent ions such as calcium, magnesium, and sulfate. The selectivity of the membranes for monovalent ions over multivalent ions is the key factor for determining the efficiency of the recovery process.

Lithium Extraction & Processing Infographic Brochure Get a free lithium infographic that shows how to process lithium to battery-grade, downstream of direct lithium extraction. Download Your Free Lithium Infographic This

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lithium metal extraction from seawater - sciencedirect

lithium metal extraction from seawater - sciencedirect

Ping He obtained his PhD in Physical Chemistry from Fudan University in 2009, and later worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), Japan. He currently is a Professor of College of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Nanjing University, China. His research interests focus on electrochemical functional materials and energy storage systems such as lithium-ion batteries and lithium-air batteries. He has published more than 90 peer-reviewed papers.

Haoshen Zhou obtained his bachelors degree in Nanjing University in 1985, and received his PhD from the University of Tokyo in 1994. He is the prime senior researcher of the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology and the professor in Nanjing University. His research interests include the synthesis of functional materials and their applications in Li-ion batteries, Na-ion batteries, Li-redox flow batteries, metal-air batteries, and new types of batteries/cells.

Sixie Yang received his bachelor's degree in 2013 and recently received his PhD degree in materials science and engineering at Nanjing University. During his PhD program, he worked in Prof. Ping He and Prof. Haoshen Zhou's research group studying the reaction mechanisms and electrochemistry in Li-air and Li-CO2 batteries.

extraction and recovery of lithium | condorchem envitech

extraction and recovery of lithium | condorchem envitech

The name of the metal lithium (from the Greek o -, "stone"), comes from the fact that it was first found in a mineral, while the rest of the alkali minerals were discovered in plant materials. It was Johann Arfvedson in 1817, who found the new element spodumene and lepidolite from a petalite mine, LiAl(Si2O5)2, on the island of la Ut (Sweden).

In 1818, C.G. Gmelin was the first to observe that lithium salts turn a flame into a bright red color. Both tried unsuccessfully to isolate the element from their salts, which W.T. Brande and Sir Humphrey Davy finally managed to do using electrolysis of lithium oxide.

Next to H and He, lithium is one of the only elements that were first produced during the Big Bang. All others were created during nuclear fusion when the very first stars were formed or during supernova explosions.

Density : 535 Kg/m 3 Mohs hardness : 0.6 Appearance : Solid white silver , grey Atomic mass : 6.941 Atomic radius : 167 pm Oxidation state : Strong base Crystal structure : Cubic body-centered Melting point : 453.69 K Boiling point : 1615 K Specific heat : 3582J/(Kg.K)

Lithium is known as white oil because of the leading role it plays and predictably will play in the energy landscape in the future. Its properties make lithium ions the perfect ingredient for manufacturing batteries.

Due to its high specific heat, it is used in heat transfer applications, and due to its high electrochemical potential, it is a suitable anode for electric car batteries, smartphones and some electronic devices.

Each year 800,000 tones of car batteries, 190,000 tones of industrial batteries and 160,000 tones of batteries from electronic consumer goods enter the European Union markets. Inside their make up, these batteries contain lithium and other valuable metals metals such as cobalt, copper, etc.

On a global scale, it is estimated that the market for lithium ion batteries will generate around 46.21 billion dollars of income in 2022.Due to the growing supply-demand tension in the market, lithium prices increased by 47% in 2016, and demand is estimated to increase by 64% by 2020.

There are problems from the environmental effects when mining this mineral, such as water contamination, impacts on the countryside, impacts on flora and fauna and generation of solid and chemical waste.

Argentina is very concerned over these questions, as the authorities have confirmed that the country will triple lithium production in 2019. It is expected that by 2025, the production of lithium will be around between 400,000 and 500,000 tones.

The processing and recycling of the waste that comes from electrical and electronic devices, such as computers, televisions, fridges, and mobile phones is today more important than ever due to the rapid rise in consumption of these products.

Europe was the second region in the world that produced the most electronic waste in 2016 with 12.3 million tones (MT), after Asia which generated 18.2 MT. Despite all the current legislation, reports show that only 8.9 MT of electronic waste is gathered and recycled worldwide. That is equivalent to 20% of all the electronic waste generated.

According to reliable sources, 80% of the tech rubbish generated by the first world is sent to Africa, both to supply the trade for these products with second-hand units, often obsolete and of very short life, and to nourish illegal recycling chains.

In fact, metals such as vanadium, cobalt, arsenic, aluminum, chrome, leadetc, have been found in blood samples that were analyzed from African migrants that surpassed the values of those obtained from people from more technologically advanced countries, such as Japan or the U.S.

The authors highlight another fact: Africa may be behind the rest of the world on landlines, but mobile use has skyrocketed in its countries in recent years, both in cities and rural areas and 97% of the mobile phones are second-hand.

Therefore, improved monitoring of these types of pollutants is recommended, because some of these elements carry an enormous health risk, and because it is well known that pollution does not respect borders.

When recycling Li batteries, the lithium they contain is discarded. This may seem an incongruity, but economically it is not, because the price of lithium is around 6 euros per kilo, low enough that there is no private endeavor in favor of recycling.

Currently, when we send our lithium batteries for recycling, the metals that are extracted from them are the most valuable, such as cobalt. Cobalt is used in lithium-ion batteries, from which it is then extracted in the form of cobalt oxide and lithium, with a price of 19 euros per kilo, more than three times the price on the lithium market.

Due to the low price of lithium, which is expected to remain stable thanks to new deposits found in Bolivia, its recovery of used batteries does not imply any business incentive, leaving it as a simple filler for concrete, thus preventing its future recovery and utilization.

However, this entails risks, since batteries contain acids and alkalis that act as electrolytes during their operation. No one can assure that there is no internal leaching inside the batteries (dissolution), once buried and that it may corrode the concrete since this material may be exposed to leaks and breakage by tremors or earthquakes, which could cause the material to reach the ground and to the underground and aquifer layers.

There are several different mining procedures. Australia, the biggest global producer of lithium, obtains it through conventional mining of minerals such as spodumene from Greenbush, but it's an expensive and dirty process.

Chile, Argentina and China, on the other hand, use a slow process of evaporation of saline water. It is extracted from brines where it exists in natural salt flats such as in the Salar de Atacama in Chile or in the Hombre Muerto and others in Argentina, or from deposits.

Much of the world's lithium production comes from these brines, whose production cost is much lower than from mineral deposits (according to John McNulty: 1,500-2300 $/Tm and 4,200-4.500$/Tm, respectively).

Bolivia's lithium reserves or resources are in brines, which have an approximate density of 1,200 grams per liter (g/l), so a lithium concentration of 0.1% by weight will be equivalent to 1,000 parts per million (ppm) and 1.2g/l.

The evaporation, in addition to raising the concentration of the salts, causes some of these to be precipitated when saturated. Adsorption has the advantages that it is not influenced by the composition of saltwater (brines with low concentrations of lithium can be treated just like experiments with seawater), nor by the weather conditions of the place and not much waste is generated.

The disadvantages are that reagents are necessary; the adsorption equipment is expensive and complicated and the cost of the adsorbent is high. The advantages of natural evaporation are basically that no energy is consumed nor many chemical reagents are used, while its disadvantages are the need to simultaneously use another method of separation, the accumulation of waste and the dependence on the local weather conditions (evaporation rate and rainfall).

The world's largest production of lithium from brines is obtained from the Salar de Atacama in Chile, where the method of evaporation is used and from which the data and many operating factors allow comparison with those at the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia.

While evaporation and rainfall are 3,200 mm/year and 10-15 mm/year in Atacama, in Uyuni they are 1,500 mm/year and 200-500 mm/year, that is to say that in Uyuni the evaporation is lower and the much higher rainfall, which slows evaporation quite a bit.

The laboratory study "Chemical treatment of brines from the Salar de Uyuni-Potos" carried out in 1987 in France by the UMSA-ORSTOM (French Institute for Scientific Research for Development), simulating the conditions of evaporation pools in 5 containers, established that sodium chloride (NaCl) first precipitates and then potassium chloride (KCl) almost immediately.

The LC obtained by any method must be purified, dried and crystallized. Despite the high lithium content in the Salar de Atacama and the experience in obtaining it, it is shown that its recovery is 42%.

The LC to be used in the manufacture of batteries for electric vehicles must have a purity of at least 99.95%, so the LC obtained by precipitation must be refined through various reactions and recrystallization stages, in some cases by an ion exchange resin.

Because the refining process has a high cost and its recovery is lower after each stage (in the refining stage it is estimated at approximately 70%), the higher the purity the LC gets, its price increases by much greater proportion.

The recovery of the materials that make up the lithium-ion batteries is done through the Leaching process. That is, through the use of acids to dissolve the components once the device has been taken apart.

The whole process must follow a series of steps, starting with the collection of batteries, classification and discharge of electricity.Then, the separation of its components is carried out, until the anode and the cathode (parts that allow the electrochemical reaction) are completely separated.

The process begins with the manual disassembly of these to separate the residue of interest, then a reduction in size is carried out and between 560 and 800 m is reached from the waste of the devices, respectively.

The filtered wash from the previous stage is leached with sulfuric acid, and maximum recoveries of 96.0 and 99.9% of lithium, cobalt, manganese, nickel are obtained, with concentrations of 3.0 and 4.0 M, in each residue type.

The leached acid cocktail is neutralized with sodium hydroxide, sodium bicarbonate is added and manganese carbonate, cobalt hydroxide and lithium bicarbonate are precipitated, with the respective necessary conditions.

Recently, Argentine researcher Ernesto Calvo has proposed the implementation of an innovative lithium extraction technology on a large scale, without generating polluting waste. To do this, the brine is extracted by means of a pumping system in order to place a reactor with two electrodes.

These selectively trap, on the one hand, lithium ions, and on the other, brine chloride, to be returned to the salt flat.Subsequently, the electrical polarity of the reactor is reversed and the reverse process is done, that is, the brine is removed and a recovery solution is added that concentrates the lithium chloride.

As we know, seawater is a complex cocktail of useful minerals, but it is difficult to separate the ones we need, such as lithium. A team of scientists from Australia and the United States have developed a new water desalination technique that can not only make seawater drinkable, but also recovers the lithium present in it.

The key to the process is metal-organic structures (MOF), which have the largest internal surface area of any known material. A single gram could theoretically cover a soccer field, and it is this intricate internal structure that makes them perfect for capturing, storing and releasing molecules.

The pores of the membrane are large enough for water molecules to pass through, but they are too small for most contaminants. The problem is that, to work, these systems require pumping water at a relatively high pressure.

The design was inspired by the "ionic selectivity" of biological cell membranes, allowing the MOF material to dehydrate specific ions as they pass through. Better yet, these filters do not require water to form, which also saves energy.

"We can use our findings to address the challenges of water desalination," says Huanting Wang, author of the new study. Instead of relying on expensive processes and currently high energy consumption, this research opens the door to remove salt ions from water in a much more efficient way in terms of energy and environmental sustainability.

These lithium ions are abundant in seawater (approx. 0.17 ppm), so the development of this technologycould have great repercussions for the mining industry that currently uses chemical and inefficient treatments to extract lithium from rocks and brines.

The global demand for lithium required for sectors such as the electric car industry is increasingly high, so these membranes are positioned as an efficient alternative to extract the lithium itself from seawater, which is an abundant and easily accessible resource.

Thus, its exploitation should also be economic. In this application we can think of a reverse osmosis of the closed type in order to maximize the concentration of lithium and thus reduce the size and cost of the subsequent necessary Evapo Crystallization system.

Evaporative processes are based on differential solubility of lithium salts in concentrated brine solutions which is called fractional recrystallization. Alternatively, selective chemical and electrochemical processes have been designed for the recovery of high purity lithium chloride, lithium hydroxide or lithium carbonate that seek to reduce process times and reduce environmental impact due to water loss and the formation of environmentally harmful waste.

Processes of extracting lithium from Argentine salt mines. In this process phosphoric acid is recovered by treatment of hydroxyapatite with sulfuric acid, with formation of hydrated calcium sulphate (gypsum) that has applications for construction:

This method has been patented by the Korean steel company Posco, who installed a pilot plant in Cachauri, Jujuy, in 2015. The method does not process brines through evaporation so it is significantly faster than evaporative methods.

The uptake of lithium in these systems depends on the intercalation of lithium ions in non-stoichiometric networks of these oxides with a capacity that varies with the type of adsorbents at 3-35 mg/g.

The current level of recycling of lithium-ion batteries is still limited, below 1%, and there are few companies along the supply chain in Europe that are actively involved in the recovery of strategic metals that are found in the batteries.

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a mini-review on metal recycling from spent lithium ion batteries - sciencedirect

a mini-review on metal recycling from spent lithium ion batteries - sciencedirect

The rapid growth of lithium ion batteries (LIBs) for portable electronic devices and electric vehicles has resulted in an increased number of spent LIBs. Spent LIBs contain not only dangerous heavy metals but also toxic chemicals that pose a serious threat to ecosystems and human health. Therefore, a great deal of attention has been paid to the development of an efficient process to recycle spent LIBs for both economic aspects and environmental protection. In this paper, we review the state-of-the-art processes for metal recycling from spent LIBs, introduce the structure of a LIB, and summarize all available technologies that are used in different recovery processes. It is notable that metal extraction and pretreatment play important roles in the whole recovery process, based on one or more of the principles of pyrometallurgy, hydrometallurgy, biometallurgy, and so forth. By further comparing different recycling methods, existing challenges are identified and suggestions for improving the recycling effectiveness can be proposed.

what's behind lithium mining? here's all you need to know

what's behind lithium mining? here's all you need to know

Demand is growing across the globe for lithium extraction, mainly driven by the increasing use of lithium in electronic battery technologies and electric vehicles. But where does lithium come from and how is it produced? Heres an explainer with everything you should know, including the environmental impacts.

Basically, lithium is a highly reactive alkali metal with excellent heat and electrical conductivity. Such characteristics make it especially useful to manufacture lubricants, pharmaceuticals, glass and, most importantly, lithium-ion batteries for electric cars and consumer electronics.

But lithium cant just be found in nature, as its highly reactive. Instead, its present as a constituent of salts or other compounds. Most of the lithium available in the market can be found as lithium carbonate, a more stable compound that can then transformed into chemicals or salts.

Lithium salts can be found in underground deposits of clay, mineral ore and brine, as well as in geothermal water and seawater. Most of the worlds lithium comes from mines, from where its extracted. Briny lakes, also known as salars, have the highest concentration of lithium, ranging from 1,000 to 3,000 parts per million.

The salars with the highest lithium concentrations are located in Bolivia, Argentina, and Chile, in an area called the lithium triangle. Lithium obtained from salars is then recovered in the form of lithium carbonate, the main raw material that is used by companies in lithium-ion batteries.

Brine mining in salars is normally a very long process that can take from eight months to three years. Mining starts by drilling a hole and pumping brine to the surface. Then they leave it to evaporate for months, first creating a mix of manganese, potassium, borax, and salts which is filtered and placed into another evaporation pool.

It will take between 12 and 18 months for that mix to be filtered enough in order to be able to extract the lithium carbonate, also known as white gold. While its cheap and effective, the process needs a lot of water, estimated at 500.000 gallons per ton of lithium extracted.

This creates a lot of pressure in local communities living in nearby areas. For example, in Chiles Salar de Atacama, mining has caused the region to lose 65% of the regions water. This has meant impacts of local farmers, who rely on agriculture and cattle for their livelihoods and now need to get the water from somewhere else.

Lack of water in the region is not just the single potential problem with lithium mining. Toxic chemicals can leak from the evaporation pools to the water supply, such as hydrochloric acid, which is used in the processing of lithium as well as waste products that can filter out of the brine.

In the United States, Canada, and Australia, lithium is usually extracted from the rock by using more traditional methods. Nevertheless, this still requires the use of chemicals in order to extract it in a useful form. In Nevada, the research found impacts on fish 150 miles downstream from a lithium processing operation, for example.

A report by Friends of the Earth argued that extracting lithium can affect the soil and causes air contamination. In the area Salar del Hombre Muerto in Argentina, residents complain that lithium polluted streams that are used by humans and livestock, while in Chile there were clashes between mining firms and locals.

Researchers argue that theres a need to develop new extraction technologies that can allow manufacturing batteries in a more environmentally friendly way. Thats why across the world many are looking for new alternatives, such as battery chemistries that replace cobalt and lithium with more common and less toxic materials.

Nevertheless, new batteries that are less energy-dense or more expensive could end up having a negative effect on the environment. A less durable, yet more sustainable device could entail a larger carbon footprint once you factor in transportation and the extra packaging required, said Christina Valimaki an analyst at Elsevier.

Being able to recycle lithium-ion plays a key role as well. In Australia, research showed that only 2% of the countrys 3,300 tons of lithium-ion waste was recycled. That can cause problems, as unwanted electronics with batteries can end up in landfills and metals and ionic fluids can leak into underground water reservoirs.

The Birmingham Energy Institute is using robotics technology initially develop for nuclear power plants to look for ways to remove and dismantle potentially explosive lithium-ion cells from electric vehicles. There were a number of fires at recycling plants where lithium-ion batteries have been stored improperly.

A key problem is that manufacturers are usually secretive regarding what actually goes into the batteries, which makes it difficult to recycle them properly. Now, recovered cells are mostly shredded, leading to a mixture of metals that can be separated using pyrometallurgical techniques.

The global enchantment over mobile devices and all kinds of technological gadgets have led to a growing demand for lithium-ion batteries. Thats especially applicable for electric vehicles, as the world seeks to stop using fossil fuels in the near future to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.

By 2025, lithium demand is expected to increase to approximately 1.3 million metric tons of LCE (lithium carbonate equivalent). Thats five times todays levels. A long list of automakers is responsible for that. For example, Volkswagen hopes to launch more than 70 electric car models in the next 10 years.

The growth in demand for lithium can also be linked to an announcement made by China in 2015, prioritizing electric vehicles as part of its five-year plan. Over the period from 2016 to 2018, lithium prices have more than doubled and are expected to keep growing as the demand expands.

The open question is the consequences that such demand will have on the environment and the communities near the salt mines where the lithium is extracted. The more gadgets and electric vehicles the more lithium that will be needed in the future, raising the need to develop more environmentally friendly extraction techniques.

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