Adionics’ direct lithium extraction testing at SQM’s Atacama salar shows high recovery rates

SQM already has a deal with Codelco to mine lithium in northern Chile. (Image courtesy of SQM.)

Direct lithium extraction (DLE) technology company Adionics on Monday announced the successful completion of 1,500 hours of lithium extraction tests from brine using their pilot plant in Chile installed on the premises of SQM, the world’s No. 2 lithium producer.

The lithium giant runs the world’s biggest and most profitable brine operation in Chile’s northern desert with a contract that expires in 2030, but last year said it expects to reach an agreement to continue producing the battery metal under the Chilean government’s new public-private model for the industry.

The tests were conducted during the second half of 2023 on five different brines from the Salar de Atacama, demonstrating the efficacy of the technology using a customized proprietary liquid formulation, Flionex.

The brines tested displayed a wide range of lithium concentrations. The results revealed lithium recovery rates of up to 98% and lithium chloride purity up to 99%, the company said.

With Flionex exhibiting remarkable selectivity, capturing lithium while leaving out boron, magnesium, potassium and sulfates, the remaining impurity profile consisted only of a limited amount of both sodium and calcium chlorides, highlighting the ability to achieve the level of purity required to produce battery-grade lithium carbonate, Adionics said.

The tests demonstrate the operability and stability of the technology in real and not just controlled conditions, including changes in feed brine composition, fluctuating day and night temperatures, at high altitude, demonstrating full industrial readiness, it added.

“Our team’s commitment to innovation and sustainable practices is reflected in the outstanding performance of our technology,” Adionics CEO Gabriel Toffani said in a news release. “With lithium recovery rates and purity that set new industry benchmarks, we’re not just extracting lithium, we’re setting the stage for a cleaner, more efficient future in energy storage.”