Lithium tech opens up chemical conversion

Friday, 13 September, 2019

Lithium tech opens up chemical conversion

Lithium Australia has developed a technology that produces a range of high-purity lithium battery chemicals from spodumene feeds, without the need for roasting.

The LieNA technology, developed in collaboration with the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO), avoids conventional high-temperature treatment (calcination) of spodumene concentrates and, unlike conventional conversion processes, is not constrained by particle feed size.

The method uses an alkaline source, such as caustic soda, at the temperature and pressure required to convert the mineral spodumene to a lithium-bearing sodalite phase. The sodalite is then recovered and selectively leached to produce a lithium-bearing solution that is further treated to produce a high-purity, refined tri-lithium phosphate (LP) product.

In terms of spodumene processing, LieNA offers several advantages, including:

  • The ability to process fine spodumene feed stocks, which are currently problematic for conventional convertors and mineral concentrate producers.
  • Production of high-purity battery chemicals without the need to produce sodium sulfate as a by-product, as is the case for conventional thermal spodumene converters. It is expected that, longer term, conventional converters will encounter issues in relation to the sale or disposal of sodium sulfate as a by-product of lithium hydroxide production.
  • The option to produce a suite of lithium chemicals, including lithium phosphate, hydroxide, sulfate or chloride, from a single refinery.
  • Direct production of lithium-ferro-phosphate (LFP) cathode materials from LP by way of Lithium Australia’s 100% owned and patented VSPC cathode powder synthesis methods.

Lithium Australia MD Adrian Griffin said, “The production of lithium concentrates from spodumene results in the generation of a large amount of fine spodumene that cannot be used as feed for conventional lithium ‘converters’ (factories that produce lithium chemicals from spodumene).

“In fact, the fine material discharged as waste during the concentration process may contain up to 50% of the lithium value. Lithium Australia’s LieNA technology is a sustainable processing solution capable of recovering much of the lithium from fine spodumene waste,” Griffin said.

“Not only does the LieNA technology provide greater sustainability, but it can also supply direct feed for the production of LFP cathode materials, a chemistry ideally suited to energy storage applications.”

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