Lithium-Ion Battery Market to Develop as Researchers Set Out to Create Fully Sustainable System for Extracting Lithium from Seawater

Posted On December 30, 2021     

Electric vehicles demand has soared in recent years, to the point where experts predict that lithium consumption will be five times what it is now by the end of the decade. Today, 75% of the world’s lithium is obtained through mountain ranges near Chile, Argentina, and Bolivia - an area popularly known as the Lithium Triangle. The process of extracting the metal includes pumping brine into the giant open-air basin where the material gets evaporated over the years. However, the process is extremely lengthy, making it a bottleneck for lithium-demanding sectors. While other sources are present for acquiring lithium, they involve a high environmental cost, and thus, there is a critical need for developing new sources to obtain the precious metal.
The problem was undertaken by a research team looking towards designing electrodes for collecting lithium from seawater. Using a method known as electrochemical intercalation, the team is developing a novel type of electrode that can extract essential elements from seawater. Albeit the research is still in its initial phase, it could immensely benefit the Lithium-Ion battery Market by providing the most sustainable method of obtaining lithium.
The team’s goal is to create a process that would be highly environmentally friendly. In advancing the goal, the electrochemical approach avoids the necessity for strong acids and severe heat in obtaining the required element. They get only the required element by using a technique called single ion selectivity.
Electromagnetics is capable of attracting and collecting ferrous metal. So, the process envisaged by the team can also attract and collect lithium. Magnetism is not required for electrochemical intercalation. On the other hand, the ions get attracted through an electrical field.
Workers would submerge an electrode array in seawater, attract lithium, and release it into a storage tank. The team achieved this at a molecular level by designing particular electrode materials that attract the ions towards the electrodes while only trapping certain elements.
Several challenges exist to this approach as lithium concertation within the water is extremely low at 0.2 parts per million. This means that any extraction technique created will need to be highly efficient at attracting lithium at a reasonable rate. Further, using these electrodes at a large scale will need to be made from highly durable and selective material. Nonetheless, the team is optimistic that they will unveil an entirely sustainable system for acquiring lithium within the next decade.

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