A UK startup has developed a low-energy, chemical-free process for producing lithium – a key material for electric vehicle batteries
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Spotted: Startup British Lithium has begun producing lithium from a granite quarry in Cornwall. The novel, environmentally-friendly process was developed in a plant that took four years of research and development to create. During the process, lithium is extracted from a rich seam of mica—a mineral with a layered structure— found in the granite. A key component of electric vehicle batteries, lithium has never been produced commercially from mica.
With three patents pending for its technology, British Lithium continues to refine its processes. The plant covers the entire mining process, from quarrying to crushing, purification, ion-exchange, and finally production of high-quality lithium carbonate. Now, the facility is gearing up to produce five kilogrammes per day. At full capacity, the plant will produce 21,000 tonnes of lithium per year.
Sustainability is an important strand of all parts of the business. For example, the process includes the use of temperatures much lower than in traditional mining and manufacturing. Salt is also used in place of toxic chemicals.
Scaling up battery production in a sustainable way will be an important challenge in the coming years. Springwise has spotted a number of battery innovations including an EV battery recycling process and batteries made from wood.
Written by: Keely Khoury