With the global demand for renewable energy increasing exponentially year on year, the focus on lithium extraction and refining grows with it. Historically isolated and extracted from hard rock, by the 1990’s brine pools and brine deposits had also become a major source of Lithium. Presently, most of the Lithium refined comes either from Spodumene, the mineral contained in hard rock or from the salty brine pumped directly out of the ground. The Lithium concentrate is then further refined through various stages including many filtration steps, predominantly into Lithium Hydroxide or Lithium Carbonate, which both now play a vital role in the production of Lithium-ion batteries utilized in electric vehicles (EVs).
Lithium extraction falls into two main categories, hard rock and brine, with a third sedimentary clay in development. Both hard rock and brine extraction processes have multiple filtration stages within. In addition to the extraction processes, Lithium can also be obtained from battery recycling.
From the hard rock comes the spodumene ore which is first beneficiated and then concentrated to increase the lithium content, done typically through gravity separation and/or floatation. The spodumene concentrate is then further refined and processed into high purity / battery grade Lithium Hydroxide or Lithium Carbonate (~99.5%) through many process stages including primary and secondary filtration steps requiring consumable filter media, filter cloths, filter belts and filter bags.
Brine extraction follows a different process. Lithium rich brine is extracted from underground reservoirs containing naturally dissolved Lithium which is pumped into evaporation ponds. During evaporation the Lithium salts crystalize, present for example, in the form of Lithium Carbonate or Lithium Chloride which are then harvested before further complex refining and purification begins. As the Lithium is purified, impurities are removed through chemical processing and multiple filtration stages. It is then converted into Lithium products such as Lithium Hydroxide or Lithium Carbonate.
Besides the economic demand for Lithium increasing, there is also a growing awareness and demand for environmentally friendly industrial mining and refining processes. DLE (Direct Lithium Extraction) is a solution that can satisfy both the economic and environmental concerns. DLE uses a process that involves a highly selective absorbent to extract lithium from brine water. The solution extracted from the brine water is then polished of impurities to yield high-grade Lithium Carbonate and Lithium Hydroxide. What makes DLE different from other methods is that it rejects critical impurities, yielding a higher quality product.
With the increase in demand for Li-ion batteries used in EVs, the need to recycle and re-use the valuable Lithium is also becoming more prevalent. After removal from consumer electronics and EVs the batteries are disassembled, the battery components are broken down and leached using acids or other solvents creating a so-called Black Mass which is purified through separation and filtration. This purified solution is processed to recover Lithium compound carbonates or hydroxides depending on application.
As we have mentioned, the Lithium extraction process does take multiple forms and so it comes as no surprise that there can be various types of equipment used in each. CHAMBER PRESS, HVBF, TOWER PRESS, POLISHING FILTERS (I.e. CANDLE, PRESSURE LEAF).
Clear Edge have already been working closely with industry leaders in the Lithium space. We have had early access to bench testing and fabric selection for a number of leading Lithium producers and have media on their equipment and running efficiently. We are also working closely with pilot plants and sites in early construction phase whilst developing partnerships with the selected OEM in each case. We have a good knowledge base for each extraction method as well as the battery recycling process and have also attended many networking events to further knowledge of the markets and economies, helping us build a healthy product portfolio to serve this emerging and rapidly expanding market.
For full specifications, download the Clear Edge Lithium brochure
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