Lithium Extraction and Refining

Battery-grade lithium with energy- and cost-optimized processing

Saltworks brings expertise and advanced technologies to our lithium industry clients, offering solutions for concentrating, refining, and converting low-grade lithium sources to battery-grade products. Our processing technologies deliver higher purity and yield, lower energy and water use, fewer unit operations, and lower costs.

Battery-Grade Lithium Extraction

Most of the world’s battery-grade lithium is produced by:

  1. Mining & acid leaching from spodumene ores, producing lithium sulfate solution, which is then converted to battery-grade lithium carbonate or hydroxide via electrochemical processes. This dominates Australian production.
  2. Concentration & precipitation as lithium carbonate from brines via evaporation ponds. These resources tend to have lower hardness (e.g., calcium, magnesium) and are located in areas with high evaporation rates such as elevated deserts in South America.

A third method is gaining popularity, particularly in North America and China:

  1. Direct lithium extraction (DLE) by lithium absorption from saline water sources to an ion exchange type material or bead, followed by washing with hydrochloric acid, producing dilute lithium chloride with impurities. DLE tends to fit lithium resources with higher hardness, in areas not suitable for evaporation ponds.
Photo of an electric vehicle with a lithium ion battery charging
Lithium extraction and refining from water

Direct Lithium Extraction (DLE)

DLE operators generally extract lithium using methods unique to each site, but most produce a lithium chloride solution of 1,000 to 2,000 mg/L containing impurities. We add value for clients downstream of customer-selected DLE processes where we help by concentrating lithium chloride solutions and converting them to battery-grade lithium carbonate or lithium hydroxide solids.


We offer comprehensive modelling, piloting, and full-scale solutions that convert DLE outputs into battery-grade inputs.

Water Refining Technology Applied

Lithium processing plants are water plants. They refine a high-grade lithium output using water that can be returned and re-used. The steps generally include concentrating a brine, chemical conversion steps to change the lithium form, washing, and final crystallization.


Saltworks offers solutions for every step, including comprehensive “concentrate, refine, and convert” packages. Our solutions can remove troublesome ions such as silica, thereby enabling higher recovery processing in membrane systems.


Then, our next-generation reverse osmosis (RO) system, XtremeRO, concentrates lithium chloride (LiCl) up to 50% higher than conventional RO. These ultra-high pressure (1,800 psi) reverse osmosis (UHP-RO) systems reduce downstream evaporator size and cost and in some cases remove the need for them entirely.

A simple process flow diagram for lithium processing and refining by Saltworks Technologies
A simplified process flow diagram for lithium processing and refining by Saltworks Technologies
Photo of a heat exchanger in a SaltMaker MVR lithium processing plant

Highest Quality & Yield

To ensure the highest lithium quality and yield, we precisely target impurities and selectively precipitate the lithium forms most valuable to a project. We pair smart, precise chemical conversion (BrineRefine) with robust ceramic ultrafiltration (XtremeUF) to complete conversion steps with less chemical waste and greater precision, all delivered in an automated, compact package with integrated controls.


Our SaltMaker evaporator crystallizers concentrate lithium brines and crystallize solid, battery-grade lithium hydroxide. Built-in self-cleaning ensures reliability at optimal capacity, while producing high-purity solid product. Learn more in our SaltMaker MVR lithium hydroxide crystallizer spec sheet.


We also reduce the need for—and size of—evaporation steps, saving valuable energy and capital costs. To learn more about efficient refining of high-quality lithium, download our lithium brochure, check out our article, or contact our expert lithium team.

Learn more about the Lithium Test Centre: in-house mini-refineries staffed by experts.

Related Products

A 3D render of a full-scale BrineRefine system with 2 modules (4 reactors).

BrineRefine Chemical Reactor

BrineRefine is a continuous stirred tank reactor (CSTR) that executes diverse chemical reactions efficiently and with precision.

Related Resources

A simple process flow diagram for lithium processing and refining by Saltworks Technologies

Lithium Process Flow Brochure

This lithium process flow brochure shows how membrane, thermal, and chemical water technologies fit into various stages of lithium production. Learn how to process lithium to battery-grade, downstream of direct lithium extraction.

Image depicting a battery

99.9% Purity Battery-Grade Lithium Hydroxide

Saltworks is pleased to announce the production of battery-grade lithium hydroxide from an industrial wastewater. Saltworks’ process harvests lithium hydroxide solids that reach or exceed battery-grade specifications.

Photo of a Saltworks XtremeUF system, outdoors with a technician during testing

Saltworks’ Lithium Refining Test Centre Opens

Saltworks is delighted to formally announce its Lithium Test Centre, dedicated to accelerating and de-risking lithium processing projects. The new centre incorporates end-to-end lithium processing pilot plants and technical expertise in the production of battery-grade lithium chemicals.

Saltworks' Technology Map for Industrial Desalination and Lithium Refining

Mining Water for Lithium: ZLD and LCE

Saltworks is pleased to release a new technology map for achieving complete system ZLD and LCE production. Saltworks’ CEO, Ben Sparrow, also covered the same topic on the “(Don’t) Waste Water” podcast, hosted by Antoine Walter.