- Lithium is a chemical element with atomic number 3.
- It is a soft alkali metal with a silvery-white appearance.
- This is the lightest metal and least weighted solid element.
- This alkali metal is highly weightless, although very flammable and highly reactive (USGS.gov, 2019).
- Lithium must be stored in inert liquid and is held in vacuums or static solutions such as kerosene.
- Lithium presents a glowing luster rapidly corroded by air on the first cut to a dark silver, black tarnish.
- Lithium is commonly used in batteries and is a critical resource with increasing electric vehicles, cell phones, and solar power systems.
- Mineral enriched brines provide a vast array of hydrogeological challenges for exploration, characterization, and quantifying deposits of minerals resources and reserves according to industry standards.
- Deposits can be enhanced from minerals resources to mineral reserves by experts.
- Accurate estimates depend on the spatial differences of fluid density and dissolved mineral concentration, including investigations that occur before, during, and after the mining period (USGS.gov, 2019).
- Once extracted, it is essential to determine the hydraulic parameters of a host aquifer and the potential to dilute the mineral deposits during extraction using freshwater sources.
- From a hydrogeology perspective, the processing works can include field surveys and evaluations of extraction wells generally used to produce brine.
- There are various methods of extracting lithium.
- Battery-grade lithium: mining and acid leaching spodumene ores to produce lithium sulfate solution.
- Concentrate and precipitate as lithium carbonates from brine solutions through evaporation ponds
- Lithium absorption from saline water through an ion-exchange type material or beads before releasing through flushing with hydrochloric acid.
- Emerging methods include water refining technology. Generally, a brine concentration through chemical conversion procedures changes the form of lithium before washing and final crystallization.
- Direct lithium extraction operates differently by increasing the concentration of lithium chloride solution to convert to battery-grade lithium carbonates solids.
- For the highest quality lithium and yields, the primary target is impurities to precipitate lithium forms selectively.
- A combination of chemical conversion processes and robust ceramic ultrafiltration to derive precise, pre-packaged, and automated chemical processing (USGS.gov, 2019).
- A salt maker evaporator crystallizer concentrates the lithium brine and crystallizes solid battery-grade lithium hydroxide from the solution.
- Scale senses provide real-time measurements of specific ions, such as calcium, enabling enhanced process control that boosts purity and yield.
- Lithium has no significant biological findings due to its toxic effects.
- The primary application of lithium is rechargeable batteries, including digital technologies, laptops, mobile phones, and even electric vehicles.
- Lithium also works in various non-rechargeable batteries, like heart pacemakers.
- Lithium is molded into alloys alongside magnesium and aluminum to increase their strength. Lithium alloys are vital for light aircraft, high-speed trains.
- Lithium is also used in unique glass ceramics because it has one of the best-known hygroscopic properties.
- Lithium products such as batteries comprise different chemicals, and improper disposals can have adverse outcomes, including environmental pollution and loss of resources.
- Its high reactivity makes it challenging to control. For instance, an exothermic reaction can originate high temperature, high charging voltage, short circuit, or heavy strain, increasing the risks for a rapid-fire (Jacoby, 2019).
- Disposal should be done by listed treatment facilities at household e-waste collection points or recycling drop-off points.
- Lifecycle services support safe electronic recycling and include outsourcing for dismantling, sorting, and material recovery of devices and batteries.
Jacoby, M. (2019). It’s time to get serious about recycling lithium-ion batteries. Chemical & Engineering News. https://cen.acs.org/materials/energy-storage/time-serious-recycling-lithium/97/i28
USGS.gov. (2019). Interior releases 2018’s final list of 35 minerals deemed critical to U.S. national security and the economy. USGS.gov | Science for a changing world. https://www.usgs.gov/news/interior-releases-2018-s-final-list-35-minerals-deemed-critical-us-national-security-and