California-based Simbol, Inc. has succeeded in selectively extracting pure lithium carbonate from the brine provided by a geothermal power plant for the first time, at the company’s demonstration plant near the Salton Sea.
Today, approximately 70% of the world’s lithium is produced through solar evaporation using brine from salt lakes in South America. Simbol’s technology results in lower energy costs and lower carbon dioxide emissions, and is not affected by changes in weather conditions.
Simbol is currently providing samples of lithium carbonate and lithium hydroxide to manufacturers of cathode materials that are used for lithium-ion batteries. The company plans to begin construction of its first commercial plant, which will have an annual production capacity of 15,000 tons, by the end of the current fiscal year, and to start commercial operation in fiscal 2015.
Lithium carbonate and lithium hydroxide are core raw materials for producing cathode materials as well as electrolyte salts. According to Simbol, global demand for these lithium chemicals is expected to grow from 150,000 tons per year to over 250,000 tons in 2017.