This process is more efficient than other methods as well so it will result in a higher quality product with less material needed overall- meaning lower prices, too.
The first family of DLE technology is Absorption. Here, Lithium Chloride molecules in the brine water are physically absorbed onto the sorbet and removed with a strip solution.
Since water is used to recover the lithium chloride, no reagents are necessary with over 90% lithium extraction efficiency. At this time, FMC is the only commercial operation utilizing this technology. Usually, there is a yield of high quality lithium chloride, and temperatures above 50°C are typically required.
This technology is great because there is a high concentration of lithium in the solution and the impurity contamination risk is minimized, but there is also poor extraction efficiency, high OPEX costs because of the large amounts of base and acid inputs, and there is a potential to degrade in acidic conditions.
Finally, Solvent Extraction is our last family of DLE technology. It works through a liquid phase with adsorptive or ion exchange-type properties to remove lithium chloride or lithium-ions from the brine.
This technology has the potential to produce high concentrations of lithium from the brine, however, the organic solvents are environmentally challenging and it only works with low concentrations of calcium and magnesium. There are also fire risks with the high-temperature brines and this technology is relevantly expensive.
Impact on the Lithium Market
As technology updates and optimizes the lithium mining industry, higher quality lithium is produced for lower cost with less time to market. The demand for lithium is constantly growing alongside adoption of clean energy practices and electric vehicle production.