Hertz Lithium, Penn State University develop efficient process for extracting lithium from spodumene

Spodumene. (Reference image by Robert M. Lavinsky, Wikimedia Commons.)

Hertz Lithium (CSE: HZ) has partnered with Penn State University to develop an energy-efficient and environmentally friendly method for a high-yield extraction of lithium from alpha spodumene.

In a media statement, Hertz explained that spodumene mineral is the major source of high-purity lithium but current technologies do not allow the leaching of the battery metal from alpha spodumene, and therefore most of the extraction methods are focused on modifying the crystal structure of concentrated spodumene mineral using conventional heating (roasting) at 950-1100 degrees Celsius.

The issue is that such high-temperature processes are very energy-intensive and have been the bottleneck of the economic extraction of lithium from ores.

To address these shortcomings, the solution being developed by Penn State with Hertz’s support begins with taking spodumene concentrate, introducing sodium hydroxide, and then proceeding with conventional or microwave roasting which transforms the spodumene into a soluble phase. Next, water leaching is used to recover water-soluble lithium and remove unwanted chemicals. A final acid leach and purification results in a 90% recovery of lithium.

The organizations involved in the project said that, at present, their primary objectives are to optimize the process conditions to maximize the recovery of lithium in water leaching and eliminate the acid leaching process or reduce the chemical consumption, as well as conduct a kinetic study to obtain the required data for pilot scale testing.

“As lithium mineral deposits get discovered and the demand for lithium for electric car batteries continues to surge, the focus is now shifting to developing lithium extraction technologies that are more economical and environmentally friendly,” Kal Malhi, CEO and director of Hertz Lithium, said. “Hertz Lithium and Penn State are pleased to be fast-tracking the development of our hard rock lithium extraction technology and take this to the next stage of development.”