Mechanochemical extraction of lithium at low temperature (MELLT) from chemical-grade domestic α-Spodumenes

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line graphs: red/blue lines show quantitative powder X-ray diffraction analysis of the soluble product after reaction with 5% HCl; green lines show powder X-ray diffraction pattern of Li2CO3 extracted from alpha-spodumene demonstrating product purity
(a) Quantitative powder X-ray diffraction analysis of the soluble product after reaction with 5% HCl; (b) powder X-ray diffraction pattern of Li2CO3 extracted from alpha-spodumene demonstrating product purity

CMI researchers at Ames Laboratory conducted the activity for this highlight

Innovation 
Mechanochemical process to extract 85+% of lithium available in domestic hard-rock ore.

Achievement
Initial testing of the MELLT process demonstrates extraction of 43% of lithium available in the chemical-grade domestic α-spodumene to yield Li2CO3 or other water-soluble Li-compounds.

Significance and Impact

  • The high-temperature decrepitation step has been eliminated.
  • Extraction of Li is performed by leaching with water or dilute acids.
  • The process replaces traditional acid-roast and soda-ash methods, greatly reducing energy consumption and waste production.

Hub Target Addressed 
Recovery and Conversion of Critical Minerals into High-Value End Products. Win industry adoption of a technology for the source-diversification of lithium.