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How can lithium be extracted from thermal water?

How can lithium be extracted from thermal water?

Lithium at KIT in Karlsruhe

© APA/dpa/Uwe Anspach/Uwe Anspach

Lithium is one of the most important materials today. TheWhite gold” inside Lithium ion batteries used and therefore indispensable for electric mobility.

Most of the events so far have been in south america have been discovered, but valuable raw materials can also be found in them EuropeIt is extracted from the volatile plant. German energy group EnBW together with HELM AG Recently lithium from thermal water.

Lithium extractor is part of the existing Geothermal energy system In Bruchsal, southwest Germany. The deep water there is used to generate electricity and heat. The hot water comes from around it. 2500 meters depth It is pumped to the surface. The energy obtained is fed into the district heating and electricity network via a heat exchanger.

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Collecting lithium from water

Before it is pumped back into the ground, it flows through the new pilot plant. “In the first step Absorb “We use lithium,” he explains. Thomas Kölbel, R&D expert at EnBW. This is where the thermal waters reach Manganese oxideThe lithium settles on its surface while all other materials remain in the water.

It is then returned to the ground, while the manganese oxide remains with the bound lithium in the tanks. In a second step, the lithium is separated again using an absorbent material. “The result is the same lithium rich solution“Kolbel says,”

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Filtering process

This will be sent to the partner company. Liverton helmet They were delivered to Great Britain, where they are White lithium salt Work is underway. This will be as Cathode material Necessary for lithium-ion batteries. “First the solution is concentrated and passed through several Liquidation operations. Lithium chloride reacts with sodium carbonate. He explains that the end products are lithium carbonate and sodium chloride, i.e. ordinary salt Bart Vanden BoschCommercial Director at LevertonHELM, Future Zone.

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High level of purity required for batteries

Lithium has purity 99.5 percent Hence the quality required for use in batteries. This is due, on the one hand, to the filtration process in which impurities are removed, and on the other hand, to the high quality of the raw material.

Bruchsal's thermal waters contain lithium 163 milligrams per litre. According to Kölbel, the pilot plant in Brussels could do this every year 800 tons Can get lithium: “That's enough 20 thousand electric car batteries Out of place. A large number for just one system.

To put it in perspective: the concentration of lithium in the large salt lakes of South America is 500 to 1800 mg/LBecause water evaporates and many chemicals are used in mining, this process is significantly less environmentally friendly than geothermal energy.

ARTIS-Uli Deck// February 27, 2024 Energie Baden-Württemberg AG, EnBW, LiCovery lithium pilot plant at Bruchsal geothermal power plant

Thomas Kölbel and his colleague Laura Hermann at the pilot plant in Brussels, lithium solution in hand

Profitable business for other companies as well

Participants consider that extraction from thermal waters is possible Profitable. It should move from the current pilot plant to economic production relatively quickly. Kölbel estimates that this is the case 2030 It will be until now.

Other companies also aspire to extract lithium in the Upper Rhine graben. volcanic energy Plans to build a geothermal power plant For electricity and heat in the city of Landau, where lithium extraction will be integrated from the start. Start of operation for 2030 planned

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According to the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology Lithium can be mined in thermal waters in Germany. until 19 percent of the annual requirement for German battery production. This would be a step towards independence: at present, almost all of the EU's lithium needs are covered by imports.

It is considered the largest producer of lithium Australiafollowed by Chilean And ChinaThe largest known deposits are in Chile, Bolivia And Australia. Lithium is currently used primarily evaporation in salt lakes He won and left Hard rock miningfor example. b. with spodumene.

180,000 tons lithium had become 2023 Produced worldwide, a new record. So flow 87 percent In battery production.

Experts assume soDemand for lithium through e-mobility in Europe will increase by 2030 72,500 tons He lies.

Extraction doesn't make sense everywhere.

In Austria there are also thermal waters, for example Red in Incris In Upper Austria or in Vienna Basin. However So far it has been available in only 6 regions in Europe lithium content More than 125 mg/L It is measured by thermal water, which is the limit required for economic support. In addition to Germany, there are areas in Italy, France And Great Britain profitable. Austria is not one of them.

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Luka Solich“Technically, it is always possible to extract lithium from thermal waters,” he, who researched lithium extraction at the Vienna University of Technology, explains to Futurezone. However, there are many factors to take into consideration, such as: to express from water. Different concentrations of magnesium can hinder production. This increases the effort required for extraction and raises the question about the economics of the project.