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Sustainable lithium, the new hero of tomorrow’s batteries ?

© Roberto Sorin/Unsplash

L’expression “ sustainable lithium ” could be considered an oxymoron as the extraction of this metal is a catastrophe from an ecological and societal point of view. The case of the Uyuni Salar in Bolivia is a perfect example, under which “ lies 17% of planetary lithium ” reminds us of National Geographic in this article. We can no longer do without lithium, and yet; its extraction is very polluting and consumes incredible quantities of water.

This white gold, as we like to call it, is also threatened with a serious shortage in 2025. However, the development of new extraction solutions continuous, innovative and more respectful of the environment. The French company GeoLith has designed a unique extraction technology, Li-Capt®, promising greener lithium production. Real project or greenwashing ?

A booming demand

Naturally, the consumption of lithium has exploded in the last decade, as electronic devices and electric cars proliferate. Jean-Philippe Gibaud, founder and president of GeoLith, details this state of affairs: “ When we are around the gram of lithium for a phone, around ten grams for a computer, it takes a few dozen kilos for an electric car, which explains why the growth in demand is of the order of 20 to 30% per year  ”.

With cobalt, graphite, nickel (also necessary for the manufacture of lithium-ion batteries), no resource can claim such rates of increase. The situation is therefore urgent, and finding sustainable solutions to extract this precious metal is essential.

GeoLith: pioneers of sustainable lithium

Li-Capt® technology is based on filters of a unique design, capable of capturing the lithium present in deep geothermal brines. Traditional capture methods have an efficiency of around 50%, while Li-Capt® is around 90%.

After having Li-Capt® validated, GeoLith was able to settle in Haguenau in Alsace to build its filters. The production rate will therefore increase from 2,000 filters annually to 36,000. The goal is for lithium companies to be able to supply enough lithium carbonate to power two million electric vehicles. Or the equivalent of 100,000 tons of lithium.

Jean-Philippe Gibaud thinks big for his Li-Capt® technology: “ 100,00 tonnes of lithium carbonate, that’is 20&nbsp ;% of world production, but it will be 3 % in 2030… This will make it possible to meet part of the needs of a country like France and especially with direct extraction technologies like ours, it opens up the possibility of producing almost anywhere in the world, therefore # 8217;remove the risk of shortage or monopoly of a few players “.

The process developed by GeoLith (direct extraction ) emits 15 times less CO2 than traditional methods, another advantage to highlight.

Avoid shortage by optimizing the d&#8217 process ;extract; why not ? However, Li-Capt® does not solve the central problem : a day will arrive when we will have removed from the basements the slightest gram of existing lithium. No details are provided on the company's official website on the impact of their technology on other problems inherent in lithium production. Pollution by discharge of sulfuric acid and sodium hydroxide or water consumption. Talking about sustainable lithium therefore seems to be a little premature for the moment.

  • GeoLith is a French company which has designed a new direct lithium extraction technology, Li-Capt®.
  • This is based on filters, more effective than conventional methods for capturing lithium at depth.
  • Their technology is cleaner in terms of CO2 emissions, but no element allows & #8217;affirm that it is on the other problematic aspects of the extraction of this metal.

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Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116