INFOGRAPHIC: Lithium – the key ingredient powering today's tech
Today's infographic covers every aspect of lithium from its uses in technology to its elemental properties.
Lithium infographic presented by: Dajin Resources
Lithium is nature’s lightest metal, but it is also one of the most chemically reactive, which makes it a key ingredient in powering and building the latest technology.
Most similar to a material such as wood in density, lithium would float on water if it didn’t react with it so intensely. The light metal even reacts with air almost instantly, turning from a silvery-white to dark grey.
Why is lithium so reactive? It is because it has a single valence electron that it can lend to many different types of chemical reactions.
Before 1990, it was rare for more than 100,000 tonnes of lithium to be used each year. However, since then demand has skyrocketed to closer to 600,000 tonnes per year, where it is today. Lithium’s uses are split between chemical and technical, but the fastest growing segments of demand are derived from its electrochemical potential.
Lithium has the highest electric output per unit weight of any battery material, which makes it the obvious choice for energy storage in many types of technology. Electric cars, renewable energy, smart grids, and consumer electronics are all using lithium ion batteries, and these markets all show signs of growth in the future.
Furthermore, lithium has some other interesting uses as well. Recently Alcoa developed a 4th generation aluminum-lithium alloy to reduce weight of airliners. The result is a 15% fuel savings through increased fuel efficiency.
While lithium is not scarce, it does tend to be deposited in very low concentrations through many types of rocks. The biggest challenge is finding high enough concentrations to make it cost-efficient to produce. Uniquely to lithium, brine deposits can cut exploration and milling costs by up to 50%, which has priced many hard rock miners out of the market.
Brine deposits are produced mainly from salt flats, which are also known as salars. The “Lithium Triangle” is the major industrial producer of lithium and holds over 70% of global reserves. The only producing lithium mine in the United States is in Clayton Valley, Nevada in the “Lithium Hub”, which is very close to the site ofTesla’s $5 billion Gigafactory.
Lithium, because of its physical and chemical properties, is an essential ingredient powering today’s technology. Moving forward, lithium will be even more important for crucial areas such as power storage, electronics, automobiles, defense, and aerospace.
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