Lithium Australia advances patent for ‘revolutionary’ lithium phosphate recovery process

Lithium Australia ASX LIT patent revolutionary phosphate recovery process
Lithium Australia’s proprietary technologies aim to deliver efficient, sustainable processing and production options for the lithium-ion battery industry while also reducing the industry’s environmental footprint.

Lithium Australia (ASX: LIT) has received a clear international preliminary report on the patentability of processes described in its application for the recovery of lithium phosphate from lithium-bearing solutions.

The company announced this morning that the international patent examiner has indicated all the claims in its application are “novel, involve an inventive step and are applicable to industry”.

The report will allow the company to progress to national phase assessment in Australia and international jurisdictions.

ANSTO collaboration

Lithium Australia is working with the Australian Nuclear Science & Technology Organisation (ANSTO) on revolutionary technologies – such as the proprietary SiLeach® and LieNA® processes – to optimise the recovery of lithium phosphate from a range of lithium-bearing solutions.

The lithium phosphate is then refined to the standard required for the production of lithium-ferro phosphate (LFP) lithium-ion batteries (LIB).

LFP LIBs – which are enjoying renewed popularity in China – have become the battery of choice for the Tesla Model 3 marketed to the region’s consumers.

They are also used in energy storage systems such as those sold into the Australian market by Lithium Australia’s 50% owned subsidiary Soluna Australia, which offers a range of battery storage modules for residential applications.

Process route

Patent application PCT/AU2019/050540 details Lithium Australia’s process for recovering lithium phosphate from lithium-bearing solutions such as brine or pregnant process liquor.

If granted, it will protect the company’s process route, developed during testwork prior to completion of the SiLeach® pilot program in 2018.

Being in receipt of a clear report on patentability for lithium phosphate recovery allows the application to progress to national phase assessment in Australia and international jurisdictions.

Lithium Australia also recently received a Certificate of Grant from IP Australia for its LieNA® technology patent application.

Achieving acceptance of this application within international judications is in progress.

Recovery processes

SiLeach® recovers lithium phosphate and sulphate from lithium-bearing silicates following the application of a fluoride-accelerated acid leach primarily applicable to lithium micas.

LieNA® is an alkaline pressure conversion process which extracts lithium as lithium phosphate from silicates without the need for roasting.

Importantly, the process converts spodumene – the most mined lithium mineral – to a lithium-rich sodalite, which uses acid to leach out the lithium.

LieNA® can recover lithium from spodumene which is considered too fine for – or contains elements detrimental to – conventional processing methods and can potentially be applied to large amounts of lithium material which would otherwise be discarded as waste.

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