We need electric vehicles to curb our thirst for oil, but there’s a problem: EV’s generally use lots of lithium in their batteries, and that’s another limited resource. Now Simbol Mining thinks it has a partial solution in a new technique that extracts battery lithium from the wastewater of geothermal plants.
Currently, most lithium is sourced from soil or dried brine in a water-intensive process. But Simbol’s technique uses water that is already being extracted for geothermal energy. The technique, which Simbol hopes to use in the geothermal and lithium-rich waters in California’s underground Salton Sea, pulls lithium ions out of the water and into a lithium chloride compound that can be mixed with sodium carbonate for shipping. Heat from the water helps power the process.
Simbol is in the midst of building a pilot plant that can produce a ton of lithium metal each month. If all goes well, the company will scale up. And within ten years, Simbol hopes that it will produce a quarter of the world’s demand for lithium-carbonate — not bad for some dirty geothermal waste water.
Via New Scientist