Scientists at ANSTO Lucas Heights have been instrumental in developing world-first technology that could be a game-changer for the Australian lithium industry.
The method involves extracting more lithium from mining waste. Lithium demand is being driven by the battery market, which is the leading technology for portable electronics and electric vehicles.
Australia supplies about 60 per cent of the world's lithium.
The conventional way of extracting lithium is in a rotary kiln, which requires extremely high temperatures of 1000 degrees celcius.
In early 2020, Lithium Australia Limited was given $1.3 million from the Federal Government's Department of Industry, Science and Technology to conduct further research in lithium extraction. Alongside Lithium Australia, ANSTO developed a process called LieNA, which removes the need for high temperature processing.
ANSTO Senior Process Chemist, Chris Griffith, says this method avoids the energy intensive step and increases the sustainability of lithium operations world-wide.
"Until now, it has been quite accepted by industry that a large amount of lithium is 'lost' during processing. We're the first in the world to achieve such an efficient level of extraction," Dr Griffith said.
"This technology really has huge potential for an industry which is integral to our transition to the electrification of transport, and ultimately to a cleaner and greener future.
"It provides another avenue for Australia to maximise the value from our valuable critical and energy mineral resources."
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