DOE funding for geothermal extraction of lithium
The heat in the earth’s crust can be converted to electricity by pumping water through the ground and activating turbines. In geothermal power plants, seawater is usually used, as it is enriched in alkali and alkaline earth ions such as magnesium, calcium, sodium, and lithium. The temperature of the water that comes out of the ground is around 100 degrees Celsius, which contains considerable amounts of ions (about 25% of the total weight of the water), causing corrosion and making it difficult for high-purity lithium to be extracted from the ground.
According to the US Department of Energy, $12 million is being allocated to support the extraction and processing of battery-grade lithium from geothermal brine to diversify the US battery materials supply chain. The program will enable 50% of vehicles to be electric by 2030 and move to zero-carbon energy by 2050.
The funding focuses on two main topics:
1- Validation of lithium hydroxide production from geothermal brines that develops cost-effective methods for pilot extraction of lithium for battery electrodes.
2- R&D development for direct lithium extraction to reduce water consumption and environmental effects and to increase the production rate.
This funding helps eliminate intermediate products such as lithium carbonate. The main objective is to produce lithium in quantities up to one-tenth of industrial scale from natural brine, using a process compatible with existing facilities.