Objectives of the commitment
The objective of the project is to develop and to demonstrate an innovative, sustainable and enhanced lithium extraction and metallurgical valorization process from medium grade lithium brines, the content of which ranges from 100 to 500 mg/L. The innovative process is viewed as an alternative process compared to the conventional production processes based on solar evaporation . The innovative process will be based on a selective solid-liquid extraction technology. A successful project would significantly increase lithium reserves worldwide and allow for industrialization of high quality lithium compounds for industrial applications such as the growing lithium ion battery market. A successful project will also allow to diversy the Li supply currently dominated by four players.
Description of the activities
Lithium resources are of two main types: (i) brines pumped from aquifers of dried salt lakes (also called âsalarsâ). These lithium rich lakes are mostly found in high plateaus in the Andean regions in South America. Around two thirds of current global lithium compound production is extracted from salar brines. (ii) Lithium can also be extracted from minerals such as pegmatite, from which a third of the lithium compounds world production is extracted.
Medium grade lithium resources are not developed so far because of the lack of a sustainable and economical process: lithium recovery resulting from conventional evaporation process is low and associated capital expenditure is high.
The proposed project objective is to develop a completely new process aiming at higher Li recovery, less environmental footprint and lesser investment cost. The project will be focused primarily on brines from South American salt lake aquifers and secondarily on geothermal brines located in Europe in particular (Italy, France, Germany) which are known to contain large amounts of lithium resources.
In order to develop a more sustainable and economical extraction process of lithium, the consortium has organized the project in 5 working packages :
- map geothermal resources located in Europe that contain lithium and to which the process could be applied,
- develop a new active solid compound able to selectively extract lithium directly from medium grade brines,
- up-scale the active compound production process and produce a pre-industrial material from a continuous high flow rate process demonstration unit,
- up-scale the lithium direct extraction process and demonstrate its technical feasibility and economic viability,
- pre-qualify high quality lithium carbonate produced at pilot scale for the battery production market.
The five parts of the project will be handled by five different partners in close collaboration with one another.
Description of the expected impacts
Firstly, a successful project will secure a sustainable long term supply of lithium in Europe and allow for a strong development of the downstream applications such as the high growth potential battery market and the ceramic industry. An European integrated approach will contribute to strengthen the whole European industry by providing the market with competitive and high quality products in line with Europeâs front line player needs.
Secondly, the proposed alternative process aims at significantly reduce the environmental footprint of lithium production industrial units. âThe extraction of lithium through evaporation of brines in salt flats can have significant impacts on the often delicate balance of limited fresh and/or ground water suppliesâ according to Report on the Intersessional Senior Expert Group Meeting on Sustainable Development of Lithium Resources in Latin America: Emerging Issues and Opportunities, 10-11 November 2010, Santiago .The conventional process evaporates water from brines in large ponds and large waste dump areas are necessary to store salt residues. In the case of the lithium direct extraction process, lithium depleted brine is returned back to natural environment. Impact on the hydric balance is significantly reduced.
Finally, the innovative process would be much more efficient in terms of lithium recovery than the conventional process. Lithium recovery from brine is expected to be more than 80% with the innovative process. This figure is to be compared with recovery ratios of less than 50%, resulting from the conventional process. Lithium resources would be managed more appropriately, better preserved and valued in the long run.
Coordinating organisation & role
Name of the coordinating organisation: ERAMET SACountry: FranceEntity profile: Private sector - large companyRole within the commitment:
ERAMET is a mining and metallurgical company operating beneficiation, pyrometallurgy and hydrometallurgy plants worldwide. At ERAMET Research, the performance of operating processes are being improved and new extraction processes are being developed.
ERAMET will capitalize on it experience and know-how to coordinate the project and ensure the following tasks:
- Proceed with experiment at laboratory scale to assess active compound performance
- Draft performance and/or technical specification to design the demonstration unit of direct extraction of lithium process and
- Operate the demonstration unit in Argentina and produce lithium carbonate salt
- Proceed with marketing study and financial analysis, assess economic viability.
- Collect environmental data to improve the impact assessment of the process
Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft zur FÃ¶rderung der Angewandten Forschung e.V.
Name of the organisation: Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft zur FÃ¶rderung der Angewandten Forschung e.V. Country: Germany Entity profile: Governmental/public body
Role within the commitment: Fraunhofer will lead the CFRP and GFRP recycling research.
Fraunhofer will perform corrosion tests on the developed materials.
Fraunhofer will work with CIDAUT on the implementation, validation and refinement of LCCA tools for the project. Fraunhofer is the Quality Manager of the Consortium and will oversee deliverables and general reporting are produced with the best possible quality following agreed review standards.
Name of the organisation: Fundacion Cidaut Country: Spain Entity profile:
Role within the commitment: CIDAUT will lead the research activities on materials recycling and compounding, implementing lab scale demonstrators of each process at its premises and, later, supporting end-users upscale the processes.
CIDAUT will perform mechanical tests, microstructural analyses, injection moulding capability studies on the developed materails, and will work with Fraunhofer on the implementation, validation and refinement of LCCA tools for the project.
RWTH Aachen University (Institute of plastic processing (IKV)
Name of the organisation: RWTH Aachen University (Institute of plastic processing (IKV) Country: Germany Entity profile: Governmental/public body
Role within the commitment: RWTH will implement the novel 3D Generative Preforming process (3D Fibre Spraying) that enables to create high-value long fibre-reinforced 3D preforms for thermoplastic and thermoset composites at low process costs (different kinds of yarn as a raw material, low tooling costs due to low cavity pressures). This cost effective technology allows to align the sprayed fibres in order to produce high-performance, engineered anisotropic products.
Universita' di Cagliari
Name of the organisation: Universita' di Cagliari Country: Italy Entity profile:
Role within the commitment: University of Cagliari is one of the leading European organization in the resin design and coupling with thermoplastic and thermose materials. University of Cagliari will support in the definition of the composite materials, both from CFRP/GFRP, ABS and Rare Earth composite material.
Name of the organisation: Relight Country: Italy Entity profile: Private sector - SME
Role within the commitment: RELIGHT will work with ITRB to provide the research partners with residues for the recycled ABS supply and the REE recovery processes, including their HydroWEEE process as part of the processes to be studied and analyzed.
Name of the organisation: Piaggio Aerospace Country: Italy Entity profile: Private sector - large company
Role within the commitment: Piaggio Aerospace is one of the project End Users (Aeronautics Industry): as such it will provide requirements and further applications that could be developed with the Consortium Materials. Piaggio will assist in the compounds selection, provide Fraunhofer with specific corrosion requirements on business jet size aircraft, and will assess that the developed materials performance fits the selected applications desired improvements.
Name of the organisation: Blackshape Aircrafts Country: Italy Entity profile: Private sector - SME
Role within the commitment: Blackshape Aircrafts is one of the project End Users (Aeronautics Industry): as such it will provide requirements and further applications that could be developed with the Consortium Materials. Blackshape will support to fulfill the requirements of the aeronautics industry on ultra light jet, light jet and trainer for Syllabus, and will assess that the developed alloys performance fits the selected applications desired improvements.
Name of the organisation: KU Leuven Country: Belgium Entity profile: Academia
Role within the commitment: KUL will collaborate on the balance problem studies and will lead the rare earth recovery research with the solvometallurgical and ionometallurgical processes.
KUL will also contribute to the final compounding selection.
KUL is the Dissemination Manager of the project, promoting that all partners are active on the project Dissemination.
Name of the organisation: FIDAMC Country: Spain Entity profile: Governmental/public body
Role within the commitment: FIDAMC is going to lead the Work Package on Compression Moulding with CFRP-enhanced materials. As part of the AIRBUS Group, FIDAMC will also be able to provide the input material.
FIDAMC successfully developed a 3D Printer of own design to serve the Aerospace Industry and will be supporting Smart Lab 3D Industries in its 3D printer design.
COMPOSITE INNOVATION CENTER
Name of the organisation: COMPOSITE INNOVATION CENTER Country: Canada Entity profile: Governmental/public body
Role within the commitment: Composite Innovation Center is one of the world leading organization in the field of Composite materials, both from carbon fiber and vegetal-based fibers.
Composite Innovation center has successfully implemented, at lab-scale, recycling processes for CFRP and GFRP.
Existing EU Contribution: No
Period to implement the commitment: from 01-01-2014 to 31-12-2018