Skip to main content
 

Advanced Manufacturing

Ion Exchange Materials for Lithium Extraction

Company Name: Lilac Solutions, Inc.
Program Office: Advanced Manufacturing
Location: Oakland, CA
Website: www.lilacsolutions.com
Email: David Snydacker, CEO; dave@lilacsolutions.com
Award Amount: $240,000
Project Term: 12 months
Project Status: Agreement Negotiation
Participating Lab(s): Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

CRITICAL NEED

Lithium is an essential element for the advanced batteries that power electronics and electric cars. Increasing demand for these batteries is transforming the lithium market.

Electric vehicle sales grew 40 percent in 2016, spurring battery makers to pursue new sources of lithium. If the goal is converting global ground transportation to battery power, the supply of lithium needs to expand by 50 times. Even partial adoption of electric vehicles will require dramatic growth in lithium supplies. Other emerging technologies — including grid-scale energy storage, drones, and solid-state batteries — also have large and growing appetites for lithium.

Most of the world's lithium reserves are found in salt brines, with current production concentrated in South America. The conventional process for extracting lithium from brines requires large evaporation ponds, large quantities of chemical inputs, and long development times. This cumbersome process results in low lithium recovery, and only works in rare lithium "sweet spots" in South America. Lithium producers are seeking new extraction methods to access resources across the United States and Canada.

Lilac Solutions has developed a portfolio of ion exchange materials for lithium uptake, and is growing this portfolio in collaboration with Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (LBNL). Materials processing is highly complex and challenging, and LBNL has excellent knowledge and skills in this area. These materials will help Lilac bring on new supplies of lithium across the U.S. and Canada to create a secure domestic supply of lithium for the electric vehicle market.

PROJECT INNOVATION + ADVANTAGES

Ion exchange is an alternative process for lithium extraction that can streamline the operations of lithium producers, boost lithium recovery, and access new brine resources worldwide. This process is modular, and can be ramped up to match market demand.
Ion exchange depends on beads that can selectively absorb lithium from brine, and then release the lithium at a high concentration. Existing beads require large amounts of water, yield lithium at low concentrations, and — like evaporation ponds — are limited in their effectiveness to rare lithium sweet spots.

Lilac Solutions has developed unique ion exchange beads for lithium extraction that do the job better. These beads enable lithium producers to efficiently produce concentrated lithium from a wide variety of brine resources, including those located in the United States.

POTENTIAL IMPACT

Economy:

Lilac Solutions is delivering new ion exchange technology to lithium projects in the U.S. This technology can enable extraction of lithium from a variety of brines in states including Texas, Utah, Arkansas, Nevada, Arizona, and California. These lithium brine projects will bring economic development to rural areas while limiting environmental impact. More broadly, this project will support the booming market in electric vehicles by expanding domestic supplies of an essential material.


Read about additional projects.