Experts can attest to the fact that the claim for lithium is on the increase if the trend seen in the last two years is anything to go by. During this period, the demand for the lightweight metal has risen by a large margin. There is an expectation that the margin will shoot even further in the coming years. Various products requiring the use of lithium dictate this current and predicted upsurge.
The greatest use of these metals is the batteries and electric vehicles. Previously, lithium was mainly used in the creation of ceramics and glass, industries whose growth was not as high as the ones of batteries and electric cars.
Here are the two main sources of lithium:
This form of lithium follows extraction from a pegmatite rock, which is popular for its high lithium content. Spodumene is a highly exploited lithium source and was the main source of the rare metal for a long time. Spodumene is a gemstone and its price fluctuates depending on the demand.
This lithium source came into use after the spodumene but gained popularity fast due to its low cost of extraction. The reduced cost made lithium producers focus more on brine as a lithium source and ignored spodumene.
Lately, however, the increased demand for the lithium resources has reawakened the need for spodumene. This is especially so because of the high lithium levels in spodumene as compared to the levels present in brine. The spodumene gemstone price has been increasing by the day. Another advantage is the shortness of time between the discovery of the source of raw materials and the production.
The process of obtaining lithium takes the following steps:
Concentrating and Drying
This process of concentration is done through crushing and grinding. The mixture then goes into the rotary dryer for the drying process. The result of the process is a dry and highly concentrated lithium mix.
At this stage, the dried mixture undergoes processing in the rotary kiln known as calciner. The process aims to alter the spodumene into beta-phase from the alpha phase. This process will make the lithium concentrate more pliable to a reaction.
In this phase, the concentrate undergoes frequent acid digestion after mixing in the mixer. At this point, you should observe great care to ensure that only those materials that can’t withstand the corrosive processing are involved in the sulfuric acid digestion process. Materials that can withstand the corrosion process should not go into this process.
Extracting Lithium for Production
This is the final process and takes place in the rotary kiln then into the rotary cooler. The shifting is to lower the temperatures before going into the next stage. In this process, the materials must be resilient to the corrosiveness of the processing material.
After the final process of roasting, the product is a water-soluble sulfate that needs to go through the hydrometallurgical procedure. The process facilitates conversion into either lithium hydroxide or lithium carbonate. After that, the lithium grading process takes place and is according to the purity levels.