As calls for lower carbon emissions continue, the need for lithium-ion batteries is higher than ever. Lithium-ion batteries are advanced battery technology that use the isolated lithium ions that are the result of lithium electrolysis. This process allows lithium to be used for a number of purposes, and has caused the silvery-white mineral to be known now as “white gold”.
Through direct lithium extraction (DLE) electrochemical separation, membrane separation, and solvent extraction all work together to create the lithium that is able to be used commercially. This process is preferred due to the lower carbon footprint and less reliance on freshwater and reagents. DLE also has an overall increased product purity than conventional brine operations.
Today, Australia is the world’s largest lithium producer while Chile has the largest lithium reserves. Argentina and China also control a substantial part of the lithium supply chain, leaving the U.S with only 3.6% of the global lithium reserves. With most of the market being controlled by countries outside of the U.S, we are experiencing one of the greatest supply-demand imbalances in modern times. In the past, much of the demand has come from lithium ceramics, greases, polymers, or other industrial uses, but we are experiencing a demand shift.
Lithium-ion batteries are the main cause for the high popularity of lithium currently, accounting for 95% of the total demand These batteries are used to power e-bikes, phones, and even electric vehicles! It requires 8 kg of lithium in a battery for a single electric car, and with the growing popularity of these vehicles, lithium production is at an all time high.
There is still much to discover in regards to the potential power of lithium. The mineral is already powering much of our transportation and communication, there’s no telling what it can power in the future.