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Commercial Production Begins for New Lithium Process

Salton Sea (Colin Brown)

Salton Sea (Colin Brown)

Simbol Materials, a three year-old company in Pleasanton, California, says it will begin today commercial production of a pure form of lithium carbonate for electric vehicle batteries and other energy storage devices. The company’s process, developed out of research conducted at and licensed from Lawrence Livermore National Lab, also produces manganese and zinc.

The production site is located in the Salton Sea region of southern California’s Imperial Valley. There, Simbol Materials processes carbon dioxide and brine wastewater from a nearby geothermal energy facility, and reinjects its waste back into the ground. The company says its process is virtually waste-free and requires minimal energy, unlike current production methods.

According to the company, the lithium carbonate produced at the facility is 99.999 percent pure and used in electrolyte solutions for electric vehicle and other lithium-based batteries. Manganese, another material from the process, is also used in battery cathodes, as well specialty metals. Likewise zinc is used in batteries, and other industrial and agricultural products.

In June, the president of Simbol Materials Luka Erceg testified before the energy subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. In his testimony, Erceg noted that the U.S. now imports 76 percent of its lithium and all of its manganese, 95 percent of which is produced in China.

Read more: Lab Creates Graphene Composite for Lithium Ion Batteries

Photo: Colin Brown/Flickr

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