About Lithium: A Vital Component of the Electron Economy



Lithium supply security has become a top priority for Asian technology companies. Strategic alliances and joint ventures have been, and are continuing to be, established with lithium exploration companies worldwide to ensure a reliable, diversified supply of lithium for Asia’s battery suppliers and vehicle manufacturers. (USGS 2013)

Worldwide consumption of lithium in 2012 to be between 25,900 and 28,200 tons. The market has seen rapid growth since 2004, mainly driven by the primary and secondary lithium battery market which have grown at +20% compound annual growth rate since 2004. Significant demand growth in recent years in the glass/ceramics market, particularly from China is also occurring. (80% of China's lithium carbonate is produced from local hard rock deposits as well as Australian-sourced spodumene. GXY ASX announcement)

Continuing strong growth is forecast over the short to medium term, mainly driven by demand from the lithium battery market. There is significant market upside if, as seems increasingly likely, lithium derivative batteries are used in electric and hybrid electric vehicles.

Lithium Uses 21st century

Substantial debate is currently occurring as to whether there will be enough Lithium supply (as opposed to Li resources) to meet demand in the event that electric / hybrid vehicles mainly become Lithium battery powered.

Lithium based battery usage

"The numbers show that for the next generation, at least 25 years away, the total annual possible production of electrified personal vehicles will be limited by the rate of natural resource production, particularly of the rare earths and lithium." Read more

Cost Comparisions of brine and hard rock lithium exploration and mining et al.....

It is likely that the Sileach Process an Australian invention that has removed the need for energy intensive roasting of hard rock lithium micas etc to extract high quality lithium will be a game changer as the cost of brine and hard rock extraction become aligned; allowing the Li Micas to now become part of the Lithium economically feasible resource base. Sileach is 100% owned by Lithium Australia (ASX: LIT.

In the light of the Sileach breakthrough the infographic below may now be outdated but it contains still relevant information.

Courtesy of: Visual Capitalist

It is likely that the Sileach Process an Australian invention that has removed the need for energy intensive roasting of hard rock lithium micas etc to extract high quality lithium will be a game changer as the cost of brine and hard rock extraction become aligned; allowing the Li Micas to now become part of the Lithium economically feasible resource base. Sileach is 100% owned by Lithium Australia (ASX: LIT)

From Wiki: Uses of Lithium

Because of its specific heat capacity, the highest of all solids, lithium is often used in heat transfer applications. In the latter years of the 20th century Lithium became important as an anode material; used in Lithium-ion batteries because of its high electrochemical potential, a typical cell can generate approximately 3 Volts (cf. 1.5 volts for Lead/Acid or Zinc cells); additionally its low atomic mass gives a high charge (and power) to weight ratio. Lithium is also used in the pharmaceutical and fine chemical industry in the manufacture of organolithium reagents which are used both as strong bases and as reagents for the formation of carbon carbon bonds. Organolithiums are also used in polymer synthesis, as catalysts/initiators in anionic polymerisation of unfunctionalised olefins..

  • Electrical and electronic uses:
    Lithium batteries are disposable (primary) batteries that have lithium metal or lithium compounds as an anode. Lithium batteries are not to be confused with lithium-ion batteries which are high energy-density rechargeable batteries.
    Lithium niobate is used extensively in telecommunication products, such as mobile phones and optical modulators, for such components as resonant crystals. Lithium products are currently used in more than 60 percent of mobile phones.
  • Chemical uses:
    Lithium chloride and lithium bromide are extremely hygroscopic and are used as desiccants.
    Lithium metal is used in the preparation of organo-lithium compounds.
  • General engineering:
    Lithium stearate is a common all-purpose high-temperature lubricant.
    Lithium is used as a flux to promote the fusing of metals during welding and soldering. It also eliminates the forming of oxides during welding by absorbing impurities. This fusing quality is also important as a flux for producing ceramics, enamels, and glass.
  • Lithium Alloys
    Lithium combined with aluminium, cadmium, copper and manganese are used to make high performance aircraft parts.
  • Optics:
    Lithium is sometimes used in glasses and ceramics including the glass for the 200-inch (5.08 m) telescope at Mt. Palomar.
    The high non-linearity of lithium niobate also makes a good choice for non-linear optics applications.
  • Rocketry:
    Metallic lithium and its complex hydrides such as e.g. Li[AlH4] are considered as high energy additives to rocket propellants.
    Lithium peroxide, lithium nitrate, lithium chlorate and lithium perchlorate are used as oxidizers in both rocket propellants and oxygen candles to supply submarines and space capsules with oxygen.
  • Nuclear applications:
    Lithium deuteride was the fusion fuel of choice in early versions of the hydrogen bomb. When bombarded by neutrons, both 6Li and 7Li produce tritium—this reaction, which was not fully understood when hydrogen bombs were first tested, was responsible for the runaway yield of the Castle Bravo nuclear test. Tritium fuses with deuterium in a fusion reaction that is relatively easy to achieve. Although details remain secret, lithium-6 deuteride still apparently plays a role in modern nuclear weapons, as a fusion material.
    Lithium fluoride (highly enriched in the common isotope lithium-7) forms the basic constituent of the preferred fluoride salt mixture (LiF-BeF2) used in liquid-fluoride nuclear reactors. Lithium fluoride is exceptionally chemically stable and LiF/BeF2 mixtures have low melting points and the best neutronic properties of fluoride salt combinations appropriate for reactor use.
    Lithium will be used to produce tritium in magnetically confined nuclear fusion reactors using deuterium and tritium as the fuel. Tritium does not occur naturally and will be produced by surrounding the reacting plasma with a 'blanket' containing lithium where neutrons from the deuterium-tritium reaction in the plasma will react with the lithium to produce more tritium. 6Li + n → 4He + 3H. Various means of doing this will be tested at the ITER reactor being built at Cadarache, France.
    Lithium is used as a source for alpha particles, or helium nuclei. When 7Li is bombarded by accelerated protons, 8Be is formed, which undergoes spontaneous fission to form two alpha particles. This was the first man-made nuclear reaction, produced by Cockroft and Walton in 1929.
  • Other uses:
    Lithium hydroxide (LiOH) is an important compound of lithium obtained from lithium carbonate (Li2CO3). It is a strong base, and when heated with a fat, it produces a lithium soap. Lithium soap has the ability to thicken oils and so is used commercially to manufacture lubricating greases.
    Lithium hydroxide and lithium peroxide are used in confined areas, such as aboard spacecraft and submarines for air purification. Lithium hydroxide absorbs the carbon dioxide from the air by reacting with it to form lithium carbonate, being prefered over other alkaline hydroxides for its low weight. Lithium peroxide (Li2O2) in presence of moisture not only absorb carbon dioxide to form lithium carbonate, but also release oxygen.
    E.g. 2 Li2O2 + 2 CO2 → 2 Li2CO3 + O2.
    Lithium compounds can be used to make red fireworks and flares.
    The Mark 50 Torpedo Stored Chemical Energy Propulsion System (SCEPS) uses a small tank of sulfur hexafluoride gas which is sprayed over a block of solid lithium, which generates enormous quantities of heat, in turn used to generate steam from seawater. The steam propels the torpedo in a closed Rankine cycle.

Lithium is central to many of the processes for progression to the 21st Centuries "Electron-Economy".

Please note that this is a rapidly changing field and that the data contained will inevitably be out of date some of the time; meaning that you should not rely on it to make investment decisions and consequently you must do your own research.