By Channtal Fleischfresser | October 1, 2012, 3:05 AM PDT
One of the main foundations of the electric battery packs powering our cell phones and electric vehicles is lithium, a pricey, lightweight metal that is one reason why electric batteries remain so expensive. According to an analyst for Toronto-based Byron Capital Markets, the price of lithium has risen 35 percent in the last 18 months.
As a result, many companies are trying to find ways to reduce the cost of extracting lithium – it is usually mined from ore. Simbol Materials, based in Pleasanton, CA, believes that using evaporation to extract lithium from brine – salt water – could be a much more cost-effective means of obtaining the metal.
With projected annual sales of 3.9 million hybrids, 1.4, million plug-in hybrids, and 2.8 million full electric plug-in vehicles by 2020, according to Simbol’s CEO Luka Erceg, the demand for lithium will only rise. The company says it may increase its output from 8,000 tons a year to as many as 64,000 tons by 2020.
Simbol’s brine evaporation process takes the salty water from geothermal power plants and uses reverse osmosis to extract minerals. Simbol’s process takes between 90 minutes to 2 hours to complete – compared to a conventional evaporation process that can take up to 18 months.
With the earth’s massive supply of salt water, it could become the most abundant – and cost-effective – way to keep our cars and laptops powered.
via [Autoblog Green]