Recovering lithium in evaporation ponds can take a year or more and leaves behind lots of salt waste, but there are new technologies and processes that offer exciting options for lithium extraction.
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.
CONCENTRATE BRINES WITH
SELECTIVE CONTAMINANT REMOVAL
Battery-Grade Lithium Extraction
The majority of the world’s battery-grade lithium is produced by:
- Mining & acid leaching from spodumene ores, i.e. LiAl(SiO3)2, producing lithium sulfate solution, which is converted to battery-grade lithium carbonate or hydroxide via electrochemical processes. Spodumene processing dominates Australian production.
- Concentration and precipitation as lithium carbonate from brines via evaporation ponds. These resources tend to have lower hardness (i.e. 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:
- Lithium absorption from saline water sources to an ion exchange type material or bead, then released by washing the material with hydrochloric acid. This produces dilute lithium chloride, with impurities. Known as direct lithium extraction (DLE), the technology tends to fit lithium resources with higher hardness, located in areas not suitable for evaporation ponds.
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 crystallize” 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.
Highest Quality & Yield
To ensure the highest lithium quality and yield, we precisely target impurities and selectively precipitate the lithium forms most valuable to your project. We pair smart chemical conversion processes (BrineRefine) with robust ceramic ultrafiltration (XtremeUF) to enable precise, automated, pre-packaged chemical processing technology that completes various lithium conversion steps with less chemical waste and greater precision.
Our SaltMaker evaporator crystallizers concentrate lithium brines and crystallize solid battery-grade lithium hydroxide from solution. Built-in self-cleaning ensures reliability at optimal capacity while producing a high purity lithium solid product.
ScaleSense offers real-time measurement of specific ions, such as calcium, enabling improved process control that boosts both yield and purity.
With Saltworks’ focus on improved purity and yields, customers save capital and operating costs. We also reduce the need for—and size of—evaporation steps, which saves valuable energy and capital. To learn more about efficiently extracting high-quality lithium, download our lithium brochure, check out our article, or contact our expert lithium team.
Lithium Extraction and Refining Related Products
BrineRefine Chemical Softening System
SaltMaker MVR Evaporator Crystallizer
XtremeRO/NF Brine Concentrator
XtremeUF Ceramic Ultrafiltration System
Lithium Extraction and Refining Related Resources
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.
This free infographic 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.