Lithium Australia (ASX: LIT) has taken a step closer to commercialisation of its proprietary LieNA® technology for the production of battery chemicals, receiving a Certificate of Grant from federal body IP Australia for a patent.
The revolutionary technology has been developed to significantly improve the metallurgical recovery of lithium from fine and contaminated spodumene, the most common hard rock source of lithium.
Today’s news follows Lithium Australia’s announcement in February that it had received a Notice of Acceptance from the patent office.
The Commissioner of Patents has now granted patent number 2017306576 with priority details 2016903041 effective from 2 August 2016.
As a result, Lithium Australia has legal protection and control over the LieNA® technology in Australia for 20 years.
Sustainable extraction technology
Lithium Australia managing director Adrian Griffin said the company is focused on developing novel solutions to lithium processing problems and commercialising the LieNA® process could “improve the sustainability of the lithium-ion battery industry”.
LieNA® is an extraction technology that can recover lithium from fine and contimainated spodumene that would otherwise end up as waste or in tailings streams during current concentration processes.
According to extensive test work conducted by Lithium Australia in collaboration with the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, final recovery of lithium using the LieNA® technology is reported as greater than 85%, compared to a recovery rate as low as 50% from conventional spodumene beneficiation.
It is a caustic digestion process following by acid leaching to recover the lithium chemical and does not require roasting stage, thus making it more environmentally friendly.
Since the technology can process spodumene that would otherwise go to waste, it has the potential to expand current hard rock lithium resources, thereby reducing mining costs and enhancing the sustainability of spodumene production and the manufacture of lithium chemicals.
“We see an immediate application for it in Australia, which produces well over half the world’s lithium requirements and nearly all of the spodumene needed; however, significant quantities of the latter never make it into the process supply chain,” Mr Griffin said.
“The problem starts with the very nature of the mineral and the processes currently used to recover lithium from it. That problem may be solved with more efficient processing – and that remains our focus,” he added.
“LieNA® could help mitigate much of the waste in the lithium industry,” Mr Griffin said.
Lithium Australia’s patent approval also follows a $1.3 million grant awarded by the government’s Cooperative Research Centre Projects to advance research and development of its LieNA® technology.