The global market for lithium metal is approximately 5,000 tonnes per annum and is expected to grow significantly with the introduction of lithium-metal-based secondary (rechargeable) batteries. The only commercial lithium metal production is by molten salt electrolysis of a chloride mixture, which is both capital and energy intensive, and can be environmentally damaging.
LithSonic™ has the potential to produce lithium metal at lower cost than the existing electrolytic process and with no chlorine emissions.
Lithium oxide is reacted with carbon to produce lithium metal, similar to the chemistry used for the production of iron from iron ore. However the practicalities are complex. Lithium is a vapour at the reaction temperature and must be cooled very quickly to prevent back reaction (reversion).
Our technology uses supersonic flow, similar to a rocket engine, to achieve extremely rapid cooling called 'shock quenching'. No-one has previously succeeded in applying this to metal production.
LithSonic™ can be used globally to produce lithium metal, as a powder or an ingot, for use in batteries for electric vehicles and electronic devices, and as an alloying element for aluminium.
We have developed significant know-how in gas-solid reaction mechanisms, nozzle design and operation, and powder separation, passivation (the application of a protective material coating) and handling, and we hold a patent on aspects of the LithSonic™ process granted in multiple countries.
We have world-recognised expertise in developing new metallurgical processes, underpinned by a combination of capabilities in chemical engineering, equipment design and implementation, process modelling, pilot-plant commissioning and operation, techno-economic assessment and life-cycle analysis.