Lithium processing technology company and mineral explorer Lithium Australia (ASX: LIT) has revealed its LieNA process offers “a number of potential advantages” over current spodumene refining methods.
The company’s wholly-owned LieNA technology was designed to overcome the shortfalls inherent in traditional thermal methods used to extract lithium from spodumene.
Lithium Australia’s LieNA technology can convert spodumene at a lower temperature using caustic soda.
The converted material is then leached and recovered as tri-lithium phosphate.
“The application of LieNA to the production of lithium chemicals from spodumene and petalite concentrates removes some of the constraints inherent in conventional lithium refining,” Lithium Australia managing director Adrian Griffin said.
“LieNA has the potential to provide a flexible, environmentally conscious and commercially competitive option for the treatment of spodumene concentrates,” Mr Griffin added.
According to Lithium Australia, the main advantages of using LieNA are improved resource utilisation, regeneration of reagents used, reduced energy consumption, smaller environmental footprint and eradication of the need to produce a sodium sulphate.
Due to the successful research and development progress on LieNA to-date, Lithium Australia has begun the next research phase at ANSTO.
During this R&D phase, Lithium Australia will evaluate LieNA’s final product synthesis, as well as refining and recycling of reagents.
The R&D on LieNA will continue throughout 2019 and if sufficient technical criteria has been confirmed, Lithium Australia will kick-off a pilot plant program.
Lithium Australia technologies
Lithium Australia has developed a “suite of sustainable technologies” for the battery sector that have a reduced environmental footprint compared to current methods, while also boosting commercial competitiveness.
The successful trials with LieNA follow on from the company’s SiLeach process, which was used late last year to generate battery-grade material from feedstock traditionally viewed as mine waste – lepidolite or lithium mica.
Lithium Australia achieved a world first when its subsidiary VSPC produced lithium-ion battery cathode material and lithium-ion batteries using the tri-lithium phosphate which was created from mine waste using the SiLeach process.
Mr Griffin explained the success the company had in using SiLeach eliminated the need to produce high-purity lithium hydroxide or lithium carbonate products, which are the most cost intensive and challenging steps in developing lithium-ion batteries.