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Getting Lithium for Batteries


Lithium is at the center of the electric car industry today, as well as keeping the laptop computer, and smartphone industries running smoothly. That is a lot of stress to place on one mineral. Because of this, and other uses, we are mining 160,000 tons of lithium every year. By 2030 that amount could exceed 1,600,000 tons per year, with most of it going to the electrical car market. Right now we are getting our lithium from land based sources, which takes a heavy toll. There is a heavy need for lithium, however we need to consider other sources for extraction, of the mineral.




There is about 14 million tons of lithium from land based sources, and 230 billion tons in the worlds oceans. If we consume the land supplies, without considering other sources, such as recycling, or extracting from the oceans, it is easy to see how we would run out over a short period of time.

The main reason we extract lithium from land sources, instead of the oceans, is that it is much easier to dig holes, instead of using our brain, to figure out how to extract it from the worlds oceans. However, those gigantic holes, leave ugly scars, on the earths surface, some of which can be seen from the moon.

If we extracted our lithium from the oceans instead of the land, there would be no scars on the planet, and we could help reestablish the balance, in the oceans we screwed up.

One of the main ways that nature keeps a carbon balance, on planet earth, is through phytoplankton in the oceans. Scientists believe that phytoplankton, currently remove, about 10 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide per year from the atmosphere. This is in spite of the fact that about 20% of the ocean is A desert, where phytoplankton don't grow.

The reason that phytoplankton won't grow in the oceans deserts, is because of a shortage of iron in the water. However, when we add the proper iron dust, phytoplankton bloom, and very shortly, the ocean deserts are teeming with fish. They are the base of the oceans food chain, however about 25% of phytoplankton die and settle to the oceans bottom. There they are covered and disposed of for a long time. This is natures way of disposing of excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

If we did our ocean extraction of lithium, in the ocean deserts, we could at the same time, add the proper amount of iron dust to the waters, cause the proper growth of phytoplankton, and not only create a carbon dioxide sink, but help create a proper fish population. It seems to me, that this is the proper way to get our lithium.




Recycling, and reusing the lithium from used up batteries, is the proper way to go. once we have enough old batteries, to make it worthwhile. The biggest problem we would have with recycling lithium batteries,are the glues that are used to hold the batteries together. The glue makes recycling much harder. We should follow the Chinese example: and require all lithium battery companies to have a recycling plan before producing batteries. That way people who recycle would understand how to extract valuable minerals, from used up batteries. Then everyone would be better off!




We use lithium in batteries, because it has two major qualities. It is the lightest metal, and very energy dense. Both of these qualities are very important when making batteries for electrical cars. However when you are making batteries for use by the electric grid, size and weight are much less important, than price. These companies are looking to store electricity, as cheaply as possible! That is where a much more abundant mineral(sodium) comes into play. Sodium is one half of salt. It is estimated that if we extracted all the salt from the oceans, it would cover all land, to a depth of five hundred feet. THAT IS A LOT OF SODIUM! If we used some of that sodium, to make sodium ion batteries for utility use, we could supply the whole world with abundant electricity, from renewable resources.


It is easy to see that lithium, is a great metal, to use in batteries, where weight and energy density really matter. However, where price is more important, sodium is probably the better metal to use. Switching from burning fuels, to renewable resources, however, is the final goal we are trying to achieve. If we build the right battery resources, plus other means of energy storage, we will achieve that goal!

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