Lithium Extraction and Refining

Battery-grade lithium with low energy processing

Saltworks brings water mining expertise and advanced technologies to our lithium clients, offering solutions for concentrating, refining, and converting low-grade lithium sources to battery-grade products. We offer processing technologies for higher purity, lower energy, boosting yield, reducing unit operations, and lowering costs.

Battery-Grade Lithium Extraction

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

  1. Mining & acid leaching from spodumene ores, i.e. LiAl(SiO3)2, producing lithium sulfate solution, then converted to battery-grade lithium carbonate or hydroxide via electrochemical processes. Processing spodumene 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.

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.

 

ScaleSense offers real-time measurement of ions such as calcium, enabling better process control, boosting yield and purity.

 

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.

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

Image depicting a battery
News

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 full-scale SaltMaker ChilledCrys skid
News

Lithium & Nickel Crystallizers for the EV Battery Industry

Saltworks has shipped two SaltMaker MVR crystallizers and a SaltMaker ChilledCrys to the electric vehicle (EV) battery industry. These full-scale systems will play an essential role in the production of lithium and nickel—two critical elements in EV batteries.

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

Saltworks’ Lithium Refining Test Center Opens

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