Lithium Extraction and Refining

Battery-grade lithium with low energy processing

Saltworks brings water mining expertise and advanced desalination 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, removing unit operations, and reducing cost.

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 conversion 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) composed of lithium absorption from saline water sources to an ion exchange type material or bead, then release by washing the material with hydrochloric acid. This produces dilute lithium chloride with impurities. DLE tends to fit lithium resources with higher hardness, in areas not suitable for evaporation ponds.
electric vehicle lithium ion battery charging compressed
Lithium extraction and refining from water

Direct Lithium Extraction (DLE)

Direct lithium extraction (DLE) operators generally extract lithium using methods unique to each site—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 IonSelect product family removes troublesome ions such as silica, thereby enabling higher recovery processing in membrane systems.

 

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 their need entirely.

Photo of SaltMaker MVR Lithium Plant Heat Exchanger

Highest Quality & Yield

To ensure highest lithium quality and yield, we precisely target impurities and selectively precipitate the lithium forms most valuable to a project. We pair smart chemical conversion (BrineRefine) with robust ceramic ultrafiltration (XtremeUF) to enable precise, automated, pre-packaged processing technology that completes conversion steps with less chemical waste and greater precision.

 

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.

 

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.

LiFT Lithium Foundations Testing

Our next-generation reverse osmosis (RO) system

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