Lithium Australia (ASX: LIT) is a step closer to producing cost-effective, high purity cathodes after successfully refining lithium phosphate using its SiLeach Gen-2 pilot plant.
It described the lithium phosphate produced as a “very pure product”, and one that is suitable for the direct generation of lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP) powders to produce lithium-ion batteries.
With the purity of the product significantly higher than that previously used to create lithium-iron-phosphate cells via its VSPC cathode powder technology, the company is confident of being able to bypass the requirement for lithium carbonates and hydroxide.
Lithium Australia managing director Adrian Griffin said it had achieved enhanced process efficiency by reducing the number of steps required to produce high-quality battery components.
“Collaborative development with our technology partner ANSTO Minerals continues to deliver outstanding results for the company,” he said.
“Our processing technologies also have great potential for the lithium brine industry, and we look forward to collaboration in that sector.”
Refining process reduces impurities
The production of lithium-ion-batteries using its lithium phosphate generated direct from mine waste was first announced last November.
Since then, Lithium Australia has been able to further refine the lithium phosphate via a simple propriety process.
The process has resulted in reduced concentrations of impurities such as potassium, sodium and sulphur, thereby providing scope to further improve battery performance.
In addition, the Perth-based company is of the view that the lithium phosphate refining stage fits seamlessly into its SiLeach process, developed to capitalise on the abundance of lithium micas.
“A combination of SiLeach and VSPC cathode production reduces the number of processing steps required to generate battery precursors and, importantly, removes the requirement for the production of high-purity lithium hydroxide or carbonate, this being one of the most technically challenging steps in the battery manufacturing process,” the company added.
The lithium phosphate refining process will now be officially integrated into the company’s SiLeach Gen-3 pilot plant, set to be constructed at ANSTO Minerals in Sydney this year.
Once refined, the lithium phosphate will be converted into cathode material and lithium-ion-battery cells for testing at the VSPC facility in Brisbane.
Advantages for LieNA
Lithium Australia is confident the refining step will also significantly enhance the next round of LieNa process development, having already undertaken a handful of successful trials using its LieNA process.
LieNA is designed to recover lithium from spodumene in a caustic conversion that does not require roasting and is well-suited to the recovery of lithium from fine spodumene that cannot be processed by conventional methods.
In other words, LieNA provides a potential solution to the loss of lithium in fine material.
The company’s lithium extraction processes have so far been effective in reducing the number of processing steps required to manufacture battery components, resulting in a reduced environmental footprint when compared to current methods.
The company’s shares were sitting at $0.078 prior to market opening.