Today, we’re going to talk about Lithium. First, we’ll talk about its chemical properties. Then we’ll look at where it’s found and the mining process to extract lithium from the ground. After that, we’ll look at some applications where lithium plays a significant role and then we’ll finish up by looking at the market size and demand for lithium.
Lithium is a soft metal that is highly reactive. The atomic number of lithium is 3, composed of three protons, four neutrons, and three electrons. Its atomic mass is 6.941 grams per molecule. Lithium has one stable isotope and forms, ionic bonds with other elements, such as oxygen, nitrogen, and fluorine.
Lithium does not occur as a metal in nature but is found combined in small amounts in nearly all igneous rocks and in ores from igneous rocks and salts from mineral springs.
Lithium extraction is done from various sources such as salt flat brines, lithium-bearing ores, and clay or ore deposits. The most common extraction method is through evaporation and chemical recovery from salt flat brines. This process can take anywhere from several months to a few years. Lithium processing plants are water plants that refine a high-grade lithium output using water that can be returned and reused.
The steps generally include drilling down through the crust and then pumping the brine up to the surface into evaporation pools where it’s left for an extended period of time. After this, the lithium is extracted from the brine and further processed to produce a high-grade product.
In terms of applications for lithium, lithium has a wide range of traditional applications in industry, including heat-resistant glass and ceramics, lithium grease, lubricants, and flux additives for iron steel and aluminum production. Lithium is used in battery storage in advanced technologies where exciting developments make it a highly sought-after mineral.
In glass and ceramics, lithium is used to increase the glass melt rate, lower viscosity, lower melt temperature, reduce corrosion rates, inshore glass erode slowly, improve physical properties and provide enamel and glaze coverings.
In lithium grease, lubrication lithium grease is a popular medium to heavy-duty multi-purpose grease, used to provide long-lasting protection against oxidation, corrosion, extreme temperatures, and wear and tear. It’s also characterized by its excellent lubrication, water resistance, and ability to withstand high pressure and shock.
Lithium flux additive is an additive to continuous casting, mold flux slags, where it increases fluidity. It’s also used in fluxes with integrated additives, such as lithium borates, and additives with guaranteed purity.
Additionally, lithium is used in electrolytes to homogenize lithium plus distribution and lithium deposition for high-energy, lithium metal batteries.
On the battery side lithium-ion batteries are rechargeable batteries that use the reversible reduction of lithium ions to store energy. Commonly found in portable electronic devices, such as smartphones and laptops, they have advantages over other nickel-cadmium batteries. The most common combination used in lithium-ion batteries is that of lithium and cobalt oxide, (cathode) and graphite (anode).
There are six main types of lithium batteries. Lithium Nickel Manganese Cobalt Oxide (NMC), Lithium Nickel Cobalt Aluminum Oxide (NCA), Lithium Manganese Oxide (LMO), Lithium Iron Phosphate (LFP), Lithium Cobalt Oxide (LCO), and lithium titanate oxide (LTO).
Next-generation lithium applications are expected to include advanced lithium-ion batteries, lithium-sulfur batteries, and solid-state batteries. These technologies offer a range of improvements over conventional lithium-ion batteries, such as higher energy density, longer life, and the ability to eliminate battery fire concerns.
Advanced lithium-ion batteries are expected to be deployed before the first generation of solid-state batteries and will be ideal for use in applications such as energy storage systems.
Lithium-sulfur batteries have been praised for their high energy density and long life. While solid-state batteries could represent the next major innovation in battery technology.
For electric vehicle applications, current conventional lithium-ion technology is likely to remain the standard for some time due to its high operating voltages and energy efficiency. However new battery technology breakthroughs are happening rapidly. And advanced new batteries are already on the market.
Other next-generation materials being explored include enabling anion redox chemistries such as Li-air, Li-sulphur, and beyond.
Research is also being conducted on novel LIB electrode materials, electrolyte oxidation pathways in lithium-ion batteries, advanced cathode materials for lithium-ion batteries, and Esther-based electrolytes for fast charging of energy-dense lithium-ion batteries.
Finally, let’s take a look at the market size of lithium. According to Grandview Research, the global lithium market size was valued at $6.83 billion in 2021 and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 12% from 2022 to 2030.
Expert market research reports that the global lithium compound market size reached a volume of 300,000 tons in 2020, and this is expected to grow at a CAGR of seven and a half percent between 2021 and 2023.
And that’s all from borates.today and our introduction to lithium 101. For much more information on lithium and boron and strategic minerals, please go to our website. borates.today or listen to our podcasts and our videos, selection on YouTube.
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