LITHIUM

What is Lithium And Where Do I Use It?

  • Lithium (chemical symbol Li, atomic number 3, alkali metal group) is the lightest silver metal with a density of 0.53 g/cm³. It is very reactive and flammable and forms strong alloys with other metals. Lithium has excellent electrical conductivity, which makes it ideal for battery applications. It is also used in a variety of industry sectors such as manufacture of aircraft, glass ceramics, aluminium alloys, air treatment or pharmaceuticals (lithium salts have neurological and psychiatric medical properties).
     

  • Lithium carbonate and lithium hydroxide are the principal lithium compound products for cathode material production used in non-rechargeable and rechargeable batteries. 65% of total lithium demand for batteries comes from portable electronic devices such as mobile phones, laptops, tablets, digital cameras etc.
     

  • Hydrometallurgical recycling methods of end-of-life Li-ion batteries enable recovery of lithium as a lithium carbonate precipitate.

 

Where is Lithium Produced?

  • Major world mines producers of lithium are Chile, Australia and Argentina.
     

  • Lithium is currently extracted in Portugal in the form of lepidolite from pegmatite.

 

How much does it cost?

  • Lithium prices increased since the beginning of 2015. It shows the growth in demand for Li-ion batteries, which is driven by the emerging technology of electric vehicles. However, a strong downward trend has been observed since mid-2018.
     

  • In July 2019, the costs for Lithium carbonate was €9,000 per tonne and for lithium hydroxide €11,000 per tonne. 

 

Specific Issues for Indium

  • The recycling process for lithium was not considered cost-effective, but it has started to increase thanks to regulatory instruments in the EU like Directive 2012/19/EU (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive) and Directive 2006/66/EC (Batteries Directive). The residual capacity of batteries can be used in other applications before the recycling process.
     

  • Raw materials like lithium can be affected by several environmental concerns. A country that supplies lithium for the EU-27, like Chile, has a very high level of risk and exposure for natural disasters, like a shortage of water resources for production.
     

  • In terms of supply chain risk, there is still a lack of European capacity to produce important processed materials for Li-ion batteries, but the supply of Lithium is not expected to be a problem for battery supply chains.

 

Applications

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