Saturday, 26 August 2017

Lithium Hydroxide Production From Brine: Effective Separation Of Lithium From Contaminants By Membrane Technology.

Lithium Hydroxide Production From Brine: Effective Separation Of Lithium From Contaminants By Membrane Technology.

Kirill Klip, Executive Chairman International Lithium Corp.

We are talking here a lot about the new groundbreaking technologies for electric cars and lithium batteries. Now it is time to consider the most advanced technologies for the production of lithium as a raw material. The increasing usage of lithium batteries is driving the demand for lithium as a raw material and new extraction technologies will provide the technological advantage to the most progressive companies investing in the future.

My lower estimate for future demand is that 36 million tonnes of LCE (Lithium Carbonate Equivalent) must be produced by 2040 in order to meet the IEA's target for the 600 million electric cars necessary to keep global temperature increase below 2%. However, over 100 million tonnes of LCE will be needed if all new cars are to be electric by 2040, this being one of IMF's scenarios for the future. Now let's just start adding here the Energy Storage for Solar and Wind Power Generation.

Our starting point for electric cars is just over 1% of total auto sales in the world and only 200,000 tonnes of LCE produced in 2016. The dramatic increase in demand for lithium will require accelerated production from all known reserves of lithium and new resources will need to be found and put into production, this being crucial to the Energy rEVolution.

At International Lithium, we are very interested in processes developed for the recovery of Lithium Hydroxide directly from brine. Lithium Hydroxide is the highly sought strategic commodity which is used in lithium batteries as Tesla and Panasonic are doing for example at Tesla Gigafactory

The Conventional process of lithium production from brine.

The conventional process of lithium production from brines is explained very well here. Basically, you are building a number of evaporation pools (very expensive process) where the brine is pumped from the salar and natural evaporation take place with the help of an addition of chemical reagents. This process concentrates and separates lithium, potassium and other products from chemical contaminants dissolved in the brine. The normal product of this process is Lithium Carbonate and all these processes involve relatively high CAPEX and difficulty in increasing production quickly.

Membrane technology has been discussed in the industry for years and so far only a few pilot projects are under construction or undergoing early testing. Posco has been talking about its "famous black box" for years and only this year is putting its pilot plant into operation. Symbol was trying to recover lithium from thermal brines and "hot heads" are talking about sea water as a source for lithium as well. The most dangerous words in mining are "The New Technology", this is why so many juniors are going on the well-known path of conventional production; but those juniors who have the vision to develop and use new technologies like Membrane based technology appropriately will benefit enormously with dramatically reduced CAPEX, OPEX and ability to produce Lithium Hydroxide directly from brine using membrane based technology. The new developments are promising much faster road to production with an increased rates of recovery and production.

The most important will be to have a lithium brine project which is already known to contain a significant resource and a specifically developed Membrane Technology which can allow the improved extraction of lithium, potassium and other commercially viable products. A number of companies are developing this technology: Eramet, Neometals and Pure Energy are just a few. The new types of membranes which will allow the most optimal combination of the high rate of lithium recovery and high rate of production are the most sought after. Today we can study one of the new approaches described in "Lithium Ion Extraction" article presented by "Chemistry Views" which promise "effective separation of Lithium from Contaminants" on the way to "selectively extracting the lithium ions from salt lakes brines with a truly economical, environmentally benign and efficient method."   

Mariana Lithium: Joint Venture between Ganfeng Lithium and International Lithium.

International Lithium's JVs With Ganfeng Lithium Is An Entry Point To A Vertically Integrated Business With An Industry Giant From China. 

International Lithium's (TSXV: ILC) Joint Ventures with Ganfeng Lithium in Argentina and Ireland is an entry point to a vertically integrated lithium business with a USD $6 Billion market cap industry giant from China. ILC's strategy is to build VC Capital in a number of M&A transactions. Construction of ILC Royalty Portfolio is our underlining business model. International Lithium's stake in the Mariana joint venture is of particular interest for OEMs entering into the electric car and lithium battery business looking to secure their long term lithium supply. Read more.
Please contact us to explore this opportunity. Thank you!

Chemistry Views:

  • ChemPubSoc Europe Logo
  • Author: Angewandte Chemie International Edition
  • Published Date: 02 November 2016
  • Source / Publisher: Angewandte Chemie International Edition/Wiley-VCH
  • Copyright: Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim

  • Effective Separation of Lithium from Contaminants

    "The increasing usage of lithium for batteries or high-performance metals requires improved extraction techniques of lithium from primary sources such as salt lake brines. Chinese scientists have designed a solid composite membrane that combines the mimicking of the chemical selection process in biological ion channels with molecular sieve technology. In the journal Angewandte Chemie, they report the effective and fast separation of lithium ions from brines with that membrane.

    Lithium is an earth-abundant element, but it usually coexists with the chemically very similar elements sodium, magnesium, and potassium. Although a variety of techniques have been attempted to selectively extract the lithium ions from salt lake brines, a truly economical, environmentally benign, selective, and efficient method is still elusive.

    Polymer/MOF Composite Membrane

    Xinsheng Peng and Banglin Chen, Zhejiang University of Hangzhou, China, and University of Texas at San Antonio, USA, have investigated a combined selection process by both chemical affinity and molecular sieving. Their separating membrane consisted of a functionalized linear polymer integrated in a porous metal organic framework, and they obtained excellent lithium ion conductivity with the retention of interfering ions.

    For a basic membrane material, the scientists employed the metal–organic framework HKUST-1, which through its porosity is a molecular sieve, blocking out larger contaminants. For the lithium affinity selection, they integrated polystyrene sulfonate (PSS) into the solid network, which is an organic linear polymer bearing functional groups known for their excellent conductivity for lithium ions compared to other ions. "Their ionic conductivity ratios between different cations are typically considered as the ideal separation factors," the scientists state.

    Combining Molecular Sieving with Chemical Selection

    The PSS polymer was interwoven in the HKUST-1 scaffold by a two-step process: firstly it was firmly assembled with the HKUST-1 precursor, then the composite was converted into the final PSS@HKUST-1 membrane. The produced composite solid membrane thus combined the molecular sieving characteristics with chemical selection functionality.

    The scientists indeed reported an outstanding selectivity for lithium over the related ions sodium, potassium, and magnesium, and a fast lithium ion flux. The size-exclusion effect by the porous framework membrane only allows the small ions to pass, barring other contaminants, such as heavy metals. The approach could be universally adopted. The researchers propose that it "can be applied to other polymer-functionalized MOF-based membranes." There are good prospects for more effective lithium separation from salt lakes."