A Better Way:
IBAT's DLE Technology vs Traditional Extraction

Our proven process revolutionizes an industry plagued by unsustainable practices for too long.

The ‘electrification of everything’ has increased demand for lithium–and the number of planned lithium projects–dramatically, but it has also raised concerns about how that lithium is harvested.

Environmental activists cite the harmful effects to local habitats, while investors and electric vehicle (EV) and other manufacturers worry about the slow production times and low recovery rates of traditional extraction methods.

However, direct lithium extraction (DLE) is a new, cleaner way of extracting lithium that avoids many of the problems of traditional lithium extraction. IBAT’s DLE technology uses simple selective absorption to extract the lithium from brine with water and reinjects the brine into the ground.

Read on to learn how our method offers numerous advantages over outdated lithium extraction techniques.

IBAT's DLE Technology
vs Hard Rock Mining

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Also called spodumene mining for the ore mineral that serves as the richest source of lithium, hard rock mining is the oldest method for obtaining lithium. Although spodumene accounts for only about one-third of the lithium produced from brines, it offers the advantage of being able to process the lithium into either lithium hydroxide–the preferred option for EV batteries–or lithium carbonate.

Hard rock mining typically entails first digging with heavy (diesel) machinery and blasting spodumene-containing rock from an open pit. These open pit mines can expose the surrounding habitat to toxic waste, and each step of the ensuing process can generate hazardous waste. In fact, extracting lithium from ores has been found to generate up to 60 times more pollutants through the consumption of fossil fuels than is generated from brine extraction.

Next is beneficiation, or concentrating the spodumene, through grinding and milling and separating the unused ore. This material, known as gangue, ultimately flows into a pond, where it can leak chemicals into local groundwater.

Roasting and leaching with sulfuric acid follow, both of which may release chemicals into the environment. To neutralize the excess sulphuric acid, the lithium is then treated with lime and ion exchange or solvent extraction is used to further purify it, which produce their own waste streams of salts and solvents.

In the final stage, sodium sulfate and gypsum are produced as wastes from converting purified lithium sulphate into either lithium carbonate or hydroxide. This activity, plus any other needed purification, generates more waste bound for waste ponds, typically along with the filtration system's wastewater.

IBAT DLE is a vast improvement over hard rock mining in several ways.

It uses less water and less energy, creating fewer emissions. The production time is faster, as our process yields commercial-grade lithium, with no further processing needed. The land usage is far lower, thanks to the modular design of our mobile DLE system.

And there’s the starkest difference: our process creates no evaporation ponds, salt piles, or lime plants.

IBAT's DLE Technology
vs Solar Evaporation

Liquid brine found under salt flats (or salars) serves as the primary source of most lithium in use today, and solar evaporation has been the traditional method for processing it. Unfortunately, like hard rock mining, solar evaporation creates a variety of problems for both the environment and asset owners.

In solar evaporation, operators drill into the salar and pump brine to the surface into evaporation ponds that often cover vast areas. Once there, operators simply wait–for as long as two years–for the sun to evaporate the water in the brine, leaving a concentrated solution of lithium chloride. The solution is then refined through pretreatment such as ion exchange to remove impurities, chemical treatment, filtration, and treatment with a reagent to form lithium carbonate.

One of the largest problems with solar evaporation is the amount of groundwater lost in the process of creating the ponds. This problem is magnified by the fact that in many of the places where solar evaporation is performed, such as South America, water is already scarce.

The large amount of water consumed is partly due to another shortcoming of solar evaporation: its low recovery rate. Roughly only 50% of the original lithium content of the brine is captured, so lots of water has to be pumped to hit production targets.

Additionally, after the lengthy evaporation process–another drawback–waste salts are left behind in piles, damaging the environment. Likewise, chemical waste from the purification process also typically ends up in the ponds, where it can seep into groundwater and pollute it.

Compared to IBAT DLE, our process is faster to set up, and faster to execute.

It’s capable of a much higher recovery rate despite using less water and no chemicals in processing. This also makes it more environmentally friendly, as there are no salt piles left behind or chemical waste to deal with. Even the spent brine is returned to the ground. And our modular and compact facility design allows for the use of much smaller land area than what would otherwise be required to accommodate huge evaporation ponds.

Salar Salt (1)-1

IBAT's DLE Technology vs Hard Rock Mining vs Solar Evaporation


Hard Rock Mining

Solar Evaporation

IBAT’s DLE Technology

Production Time


Very long


Lithium Recovery Rate

~60-80% (after processing)



Lithium Product

Lithium Carbonate

Lithium Chloride that is converted to  Lithium Carbonate

Lithium Chloride  that is converted to  Lithium Carbonate


Mining, roasting, leaching

Atmospheric evaporation

Selective absorption





Requires Further Processing 




Water Usage




Energy Usage




Emissions Levels




Land Area Usage




IBAT's DLE Technology
vs Other DLE Methods


Direct lithium extraction is an exciting new technology that offers better lithium recovery rates, shorter time to market, and less environmental damage than traditional techniques. But not all DLE is the same–some processes are more of an improvement than others.

Learn how IBAT’s DLE system has an edge even over other DLE methods.

Move Forward with IBAT Technology

The traditional lithium extraction methods of the past are too inefficient, unsustainable, and costly to be part of the energy transition. Contact us today to learn how our innovative system gives asset owners a competitive advantage.